California Reports Increased Mountain Lion Sightings

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Animal behaviorist and author says mountain lion sightings are nothing to be alarmed about and offers suggestions.

Wildlife officials and animal services personnel have been aware of the Griffith Park mountain lion and have been monitoring the creature since the first sightings were reported.

When asked about the increased sightings, animal behaviorist and author Diana L. Guerrero said, "Public awareness has increased and people are on the lookout for the cougar and any other unusual sightings."

Estimates from some groups are that 75 to 95 percent of all lion sightings are mistaken. What people usually see are deer, bobcats, dogs, or domestic cats.

“Mountain lions move stealthily around their habitat and therefore accurate sightings are rare. I spoke at a local zoo in Southern California where a visitor had staff scrambling after she reported seeing a mountain lion near an exhibit of mountain goats. When the staff arrived they were astounded (and relieved) when they discovered the animal she reported was a ground squirrel.”

A recent article in the San Bernardino Sun, a local paper in Guerrero’s area, cited an incident where a local law enforcement officer shot a domestic housecat thinking it was a mountain lion.

Cougars are known by a number of names. Puma, panther, painter, catamount, cougar, and mountain lion are just a few. Although slender, these cats weigh between 110 to 150 pounds with a body length of 5 to 6 feet and a long tail. Solitary for most of their lives, male ranges will often overlap those of the females.

"You could take a more esoteric view and say that we are noticing and observing more activity because development and human impact on the world are at a critical point. Nature is crying out for help and support and unless we take some immediate steps to preserve and conserve, we all will be in serious trouble. We need to acknowledge the value of each and every living thing here on the planet and stop being so homocentric." Guerrero added.

In her book, "What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality: Inspiring Lessons of Wild & Tame Creatures," Guerrero mentions the presence of mountain lions in a community. "Everyone was aware of the cat and the cougar did no harm. The mountain lion signaled that the ecosystem was healthy."

She continued, "Cougars are curious cats and their normal prey species are deer, rabbits, squirrels and other small animals. As this cougar has claimed a territory within the park, the other predators (coyotes for example) are moving away from the cougar's central location. There have always been predators and prey species in the park and it is nothing to panic over."

The mountain lion was once found throughout the Western Hemisphere. However the cougar was considered a threat to livestock and a competitor for game. This attitude prevalent in the 1800’s through the early 1900’s contributed to the elimination of the mountain lion throughout most of its range--and for the devastation on the populations of the grizzly bear, wolves, and other predators.

Guerrero said, "As we encroach on animal habitat, we have to insure that we make room and preserve habitat for them to continue to thrive and exist."

In her Internet magazine (http://www.arkanimals.com) Guerrero lists precautions for those living near cougar habitat. The page includes a history of attacks in North America and links to related sites.

Guerrero concluded, "Fear over the existence of other creatures that have been here for eons accomplishes nothing. Those living in the surrounding areas should educate themselves about living with wildlife and learn what actions they can take to protect their pets, children, and property while contributing to the conservation and health of the planet."

Diana L. Guerrero suggests the following:

·Don't hike alone.

·Travel in groups or pairs.

·Keep kids close.

·Adults should keep children close and supervise them on trails or in campgrounds. Predators will hunt weak, small, or sick animals. Children trigger predatory behavior through their activities and vocalizations.

·Do not approach wild animals.

·Most wild animals will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape and don't purposely approach them.

·Don't run to escape from a mountain lion.

·Running can stimulate the instinct to attack. DFG recommends that you stand, face the animal, and make eye contact. Small children should be pulled into you, or picked up if possible. Keep them quiet and prevent panic.

·Remain upright.

·Squatting, crouching, or bending presents a similar image to that of a four-legged prey animal. Avoid those activities.

·Appear more threatening.

·Raise and wave your arms slowly. Throw stones, branches, or whatever is within reach without crouching or turning your back. Speak firmly in a loud voice. Convince the animal that you are not prey and be dangerous.

·Fight back if attacked.

.A mountain lion (cougar) usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have fought successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands.

·Consider other preventative measures.

·Carry pepper spray, stun gun, or another animal deterrent.

·Read Guerrero’s articles on captive animal attacks also at http://www.arkanimals.com

Guerrero is available for interviews. Contact publicist Shelly Angers at 802-457-4000.

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