La Cañada Flintridge resident Dennis Flower said he feels less relaxed in his own backyard since a mountain lion made a cameo a couple of times on his home security video footage last week.
“I have adjusted my seating position so I can see the extent of the yard,” said Flower, who had never before seen evidence of mountain lions on his property in the 30 years he’s lived in La Cañada Flintridge.
He also didn’t have a surveillance camera set up until six months ago, he said, so it’s difficult to know whether he’s previously been visited by cats like the one recorded slinking around his property in the 5000 block of Crown Avenue at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, March 26, and then again at about 3 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28.
But now that he knows there’s a mountain lion out here, likely in pursuit of the deer that also visit his yard, he’s been more careful and has been encouraging his neighbors to do the same.
Night-vision clips of the mountain lion making its way back and forth through Flower’s yard have been posted on the local Nextdoor app and on Facebook, where other users in his neighborhood also have reported sightings of lions in the past five months.
At the suggestion of fellow residents, Flower said he put in a call to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and learned that its personnel do not remove lions from residential areas close to natural habitat based only on sightings. More than half of California is considered mountain lion habitat.
“So I responded and said, ‘Yeah, well, perhaps you should rethink that,’” he said. “’Here I am, a quarter-mile from Paradise Canyon Elementary School, and kids walk to school in the morning. That should be a real concern.’”
Julianne Taylor, and environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife, said there’s no need for alarm.
She said that although the chance of human interaction with mountain lions has increased as their territory has decreased due to urbanization, there likely aren’t more mountain lions than before and their presence alone shouldn’t be considered threatening.
“As a rule, mountain lions tend to avoid humans,” Taylor wrote in an email. “Mountain lions are ambush predators and prefer a diet consisting of deer, but will opportunistically prey on coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, foxes and livestock.”
Also, she said, it would prove harmful and counterproductive to try to move mountain lions.
“Handling wildlife creates a very stressful situation for the animal and can cause them to perish,” she said. “Mainly though, mountain lions are very territorial — when they’ve been moved in the past, the result is usually that they are killed by another lion (whose territory they were placed in), killed as they are crossing highways to find their way back to their own territory, or after a few weeks or months, they end up back in the same neighborhood they were initially found in, because that was their territory.”
She said Fish and Wildlife will engage in hands-on interactions only in the event of wildlife-to-human-safety events, such as a coyote bite, or when there’s an aggressive mountain lion or bear. Lions who threaten people are immediately killed, according to information on the Fish and Wildlife website.
The department doesn’t keep records of sightings, spokesman Andrew Hughan said. That’s because most sightings initially are reported to local authorities and passed along to Fish and Wildlife only if those agencies need help. And by the time Fish and Wildlife arrives at the scene, the mountain lion is long gone, he said.
“Also,” he added, “most reports of a mountain lion are house cats.”
While there don’t appear to be more mountain lions roaming through the area than in years past, the awareness of their presence has increased, Taylor said. That’s thanks largely to more pervasive technological use, such as Flower’s video security system or fast-moving social media buzz.
“Everyone has a camera in their pocket with cell phones, home security systems are becoming much more common and trail cameras are now marketed to curious consumers,” said Taylor, who said Fish and Wildlife is conducting a statewide study to determine the population of mountain lions.
“I understand that mountain lions tend not to be very aggressive,” Flower said. “They’re not going to come after somebody if there are people in the area. But you never know. You can just walk out of your house and there might be one there.”