Last September a family was hiking on a popular trail near Cupertino when their 6 year old boy was attacked by a mountain lion.
Fortunately there were a couple of adults along who were able to beat the cougar and get him to drop the boy and retreat. The child was taken to a nearby trauma center and was able to survive the ordeal. A few days later a two year old adult cougar was killed within a few hundred yards of the attack site. DNA tests by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife confirmed that it was the cat that had attacked the boy.
A rancher in the Merced area had lost his prized colt to a cougar attack a few months later, and a woman living in Placerville had her 45-pound dog attacked by a cougar in February of this year. Closer to home, a mother cougar with cubs was spotted here in 1994 and a lion was killed by authorities after being spotted hiding in their garage by two children returning home from school. Cougars have been spotted under a house in Los Angeles County and even in the city limits of San Francisco.
My friends, Scott and Torri, lived on a few acres near Groveland in Tuolumne County. Torri’s passion was raising her pigmy goats. Unfortunately a nearby mountain lion developed a taste for her goats. The lion was able to leap a 6 foot cyclone fence with a goat in its mouth. Several times they would find only some hooves and a goat’s bell outside the fence. Scott was able to get a depredation permit and spent countless nights sitting outside in the dark trying to shoot the marauding lion. Finally they moved down to the valley near Oakdale to stop their goats from being killed by mountain lions.
Closer to home, in 1994 a mother Cougar with cubs was spotted several times in the City of Ripon and its tracks were confirmed by Fish & Game personnel. I have personally seen cougars in the hills southwest of Tracy. Wildlife experts tell us that over half of California is cougar country. Those beautiful parkways in Tracy, Mountain House and Ripon are ideal corridors for a cougar to travel in. Anyway you look at it, if you spend any time at all outdoors in California; you’re probably in Cougar Country.
Cougars (or mountain lions) are extremely efficient predators. They must kill to survive and they are very good at it. Unfortunately for humans, we and our pets are lower on the food chain and make perfectly good candidates for a hungry cougar. Probably the first sign of a cougar in your neighborhood is sudden disappearance of dogs, cats and small livestock. Does this mean that you need to stop enjoying the outdoors and spend the rest of your life locked indoors? Fortunately, no, but there are a few thing you ought to consider when you are outdoors.
Because they are such masterful hunters, cougars almost always attack from an ambush so you most likely won’t have any warning. If you or someone near you is attacked, you should immediately fight back. Use a hiking staff, throw rocks, or even beat on an attacking cougar with your bare hands if you have nothing else. If you are armed, get close enough to the cat to push the gun barrel into his fur before firing. That way there is less chance of accidentally shooting a human. As soon as you’ve driven the cat off the victim apply first aid and transport them to the nearest hospital.
If you’d like to learn more about Mountain Lions and how to protect yourself, I recommend reading the book “Cat Attacks” by Jo Deurbrouck and Dean Millar which is published by Sasquatch Books. It’s a great read and contains some great information. The outdoors is a wonderful place, but a few precautions and a game plan is always a good idea to make you a little safer.