Caspar, CA--At the February Mendocino Coast Audubon Society meeting in Caspar, the subject was mountain lions. Scott Koller, a Wildlife Biologist who retired from State Fish and Wildlife after 38 years of service talked about their habitat, eating preferences and human interactions.
Despite the level of fear mountain lions inspire, there has only been one verified attack in Mendocino since 1890. The 1994 attack took place in a remote area of Mendocino, was non-fatal and involved a rabid lion.
Koller observed, “If mountain lions really liked us. If they were interested in eating us, we’d have attacks almost every day."
All of Mendocino County is lion country and the population is fairly static. The male lion has a territory of approximately 100 square miles and the female has a 20 to 60 square mile territory. The territory’s intercept. The size and number of territories is set, which keeps the population in check. One cub out of each litter reaches adulthood and only 59% of adults survive to old age. Most of the deaths are lion to lion.
Lions preferred diet is deer. According to Koller, “If you have deer, you have a mountain lion.” If the deer population is insufficient or if the lion is old, sick or injured, they will look for easier targets like domestic pets and livestock. Koller pointed out that mountain lions are not necessarily the guilty party in livestock or pet deaths. Coyotes, wild dogs and bears will all kill livestock and pets.
Mountain lions are a special protected mammal in California. They cannot be hunted and a depredation permit from the state requires ranchers to take multiple non-lethal steps to secure their livestock and have continued verified attacks before a permit is issued. There were 10 depredation permits issued in Mendocino County in 2019. If a mountain lion attacks a human, a depredation permit is not required. Public safety officers can act immediately to remove a public safety threat.
What can you do to protect yourself and family from mountain lions?
You are most likely to see a lion from dusk to dawn. Lions avoid buildings and lit areas and tend to use trails. So, take special precaution if out during these periods.
-Avoid jogging or walking alone on forested trails.
-Keep dogs on leash. Dogs can incite an attack if they flush a lion.
-Keep children close. Pick them up if you see a lion.
-Light the perimeter of your yard or livestock area. Strobe lights, motion lights and sirens deter predators.
-Use electric fencing or provide sturdy covered shelters for livestock and outdoor pets.
-Never approach a mountain lion. They can’t back up so give them room to leave.
-Do not run or turn your back on them. Look bigger and wave your arms around. Do not shriek. Make sure your companions know this also.
-If attacked fight back, it works. Sticks, rocks, pepper or bear spray, even pens and bare hands can save you. Try to stay on your feet, protect your neck and back. And report it to 911 when you are safe.