Drought may be drawing mountain lions | July 18, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - July 18, 2008

Drought may be drawing mountain lions

Police say sighting in Danville last week is unconfirmed

by Meghan Neal

Just before midnight last Wednesday, an 18-year-old Danville resident told police she had spotted a mountain lion about four or five feet away from where she was standing, on the Greenbelt trail off Zamora Place.

She described the animal as the size of a golden retriever dog, "with a long tail and cat-like agility," said Lt. Mark Williams of the Danville police.

Police searched the area but didn't see any tracks, dead game or other evidence of a cougar. Williams pointed out that mountain lions are usually larger than a golden retriever. Police are calling it an unconfirmed sighting.

"We do the best we can to confirm these things, but if we can't, we still want to notify the public," said Police Chief Chris Wenzel at the Mayor's Morning on July 11.

The California Department of Fish and Game said it's not unusual for wild cats to venture down to the urban fringe looking for water in times of drought.

"The essentials for them are food, water and shelter. So certainly, potentially, if a water source dries up for a mountain lion, certainly it's going to seek another water source," said Fish and Game's Kyle Orr.

The species primarily preys on deer; if deer herds are moving to seek water then mountain lions could also be on the move, Orr continued, clarifying that he was speaking in general terms and is not an expert on the environment in Danville.

He said sightings, either confirmed or unconfirmed, are more frequent this time of year because people spend more time outdoors doing summer activities.

Also, once one sighting is publicized it's common to see a rise in reported sightings afterward, he said. "When people read about it, it tends to heighten their sensitivity."

In late April a mountain lion was spotted at Osage Park, less than a mile away from Zamora Place. Since the animal was seen close to Greenbrook Elementary School and police found physical evidence to confirm its presence, security was heightened.

Last Wednesday, police went door to door informing residents in the immediate area of the sighting. Contra Costa County Animal Control was also notified.

"Mountain lion is a top-of-the-line predator and definitely people need to be cautious around them," said Orr. "That said, attacks on people are very rare in California. Since 1890, there have only been 14 verified attacks on humans in California.

"Seeing a mountain lion does not necessarily constitute a threat. Virtually, in most cases, that's just a mountain lion being a mountain lion."

People who see mountain lions should not approach the animal but also should not run. Face the animal, make noise and throw rocks or other objects. For more tips, go to www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html.