By Reggie Ellis
Mountain lions have been spotted close to homes on Rocky Hill twice in the last three weeks.
Leti Robles, who lives on Wirth Avenue, said she came home on May 26 to find her pool house had been ransacked.
Shelves were ripped down off the walls, brooms and buckets were strewn across the shed but nothing was stolen. Robles suspected it was a large animal looking for food and called animal control. While walking around the home, the animal control officer discovered a paw print near her home's front window.
Robles said she didn't think much of it until June 8 when she saw a mountain lion less than 200 feet from her after she and her father were walking up the driveway after dark.
"I saw its glowing eyes as it was crouched down in the meadow," she said. "I could hardly move I was so scared."
Robles and her sister, Diana Robles, farm eight acres of olives on the hill. They said it is the first time since moving to the home two years ago that they have seen a mountain lion.
According to the California Department of Fish and Game, mountain lions roam in territory that covers about half of the state from deserts to humid coast forests at elevations ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet. They are generally secretive and solitary, hunting alone instead of packs. They are generally calm, quiet and elusive, which is why people living in their territory may not see one in a lifetime.
"There are mountain lions all through the foothills in this area," Fish and Game Lt. Craig Cooper said. "They've been there forever its just that more people are living in their territory."
While they generally avoid confrontation, mountain lions can be vicious. They normally prey on deer and other large animals, but will settle for smaller animals such as rabbits. They immobilize their prey with a powerful bite at the base of the skull, breaking the neck. You should never turn your back or run from a mountain lion as its natural hunting instincts will kick in. Adult males may be more than eight feet long from their nose to the end of their tail. They generally weight between 130 and 150 pounds.
Robles said she had heard of similar sightings recently reported in Lemon Cove and Woodlake and that they are becoming more frequent. An adult male's home range often spans more than 100 square miles. Females generally use smaller areas, about 20-60 square miles. The western slope of the Sierra Nevada, where competition for habitat is fierce, as many as 10 adult lions can occupy the same 100 square-mile area.
The Department of Fish and Game reports that mountain lion populations in California have grown since the 1920s when they were pursued by bounty hunters. Population estimates, based on field studies, revealed a population of more than 2,000 in the 1970s. Today's population is estimated to range between 4,000 to 6,000.
Many cyclists ride up Rocky Hill and the high school's cross country team often uses the hill for training. Robles said she wants people to be safe and be aware of mountain lions.
"The community needs to know for their safety," Robles said.
Immediately report all encounters or attacks to the California Department of Fish and Game 24 hour dispatch center at 916-445-0045. The threat to public safety will be assessed and any appropriate action will be taken by the department. Dead or injured mountain lions should be reported to the same number.
If you encounter a mountain lion
There's been very little research on how to avoid mountain lion attacks. But mountain lion attacks that have occurred are being analyzed in the hope that some that come crucial questions can be answered. The following suggestions are based on those studies by the California Department of Fish and Game: