Friday, 19 July 2024

Witnesses report seeing mountain lion in Lakeport; Fish and Game offers advice on cougars



LAKEPORT – For the past several months, numerous sightings of mountain lions have been reported around Lake County, and now a new report has come from the Lakeport area.

Three separate witnesses reported seeing a mountain lion near the dumpster behind Kmart on S. Main Street on Wednesday, according to Lakeport Police Officer Jim Bell.

Bell said the people who reported seeing the big cat said it left northbound past a nearby office and went into a shrubbery south of the county's corporation yard. It was described as being 4 feet long, not counting its tail.

“I went over there and looked around and didn't see anything,” said Bell, who nonetheless said he isn't discounting the reports.

He went on to advise nearby businesses of the sighting.


Lake County Animal Care and Control first received the report and notified Fish and Game, which reportedly said they wouldn't respond unless the animal was being aggressive. The agency then contacted Lakeport Police, according to Animal Care and Control Deputy Director Bill Davidson.

Over the summer there were numerous reports around Lake County of lions, which were seen in areas including Kelseyville, Nice, Lucerne, Clearlake Oaks and Lakeport.

Lakeport has had several reports this summer, including in the north Lakeport area, where a woman and her dog confronted a cougar, and behind Burger King on Lakeport Boulevard. Bell said he previously responded to a report of a mountain lion on 20th Street.

Bell said he's noticed a large deer population this year. “It seems like there was a lot more this year than past years.”

Kyle Orr, a spokesman for California Fish and Game, said mountain lion sightings aren't always verified, so his agency doesn't have any statistics on whether or not mountain lion reports are up this year.

However, one of the primary factors used to estimate the mountain lion population in an area are deer populations, which fluctuate in regions, he said.

“As a rule of thumb, if you have a lot of deer in an area, you have mountain lions present,” said Orr.

Orr said estimates for the mountain lion population in California range between 4,000 and 6,000.

He said the animals have a huge territory; an adult male lion's range can exceed 100 square miles. That means if you see a mountain lion in the morning, it could be long gone by the end of the day.

Orr emphasized that mountain lion attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, with only 14 verified attacks and six fatalities on record since 1890.

In California mountain lions are a protected species that can only be hunted with a special depredation permit. Department of Fish and Game records show that 119 depredation permits have been issued in Lake County since 1972, with the largest number – 17 – issued in 1997. In 2008, two such permits were issued.

Neighboring Mendocino County has the larger number of depredation permits issued statewide since 1972 – 630, according to Department of Fish and Game records.

When the food and water sources for deer dry up, or when weather conditions worsen, the animals can be found moving into subdivisions and neighborhoods, said Orr. If mountain lions are seen in such an area, it's because they're tracking the deer and “just being mountain lions.”

Orr said seeing a mountain in an area where they're not normally seen isn't necessarily a cause for concern.

But the prey-predator relationship makes it all the more important that people not feed deer, said Orr.

“Not only is it illegal in California, it attracts mountain lions,” he said.

He suggested deer proofing and landscaping to keep the deer – and, therefore, mountain lions – away from homes. It's also important to trim brush to reduce places where the big cats can hide.

In rural areas, covered shelter is important to protect vulnerable livestock like goats and sheet. Horses also can be attacked but that's rare, said Orr.

He advised that people should not leave small children and pets unattended.

People shouldn't hike, bike or jog alone, especially in the early morning, at dusk or at night. If a person sees one, they should face the animal, make noise, wave their arms and throw rocks. If small children are nearby, they should be picked up.

And, in the rare case of an attack, Orr said it's critical to fight.

“The key with mountain lions is in fighting you're not acting like prey,” he said.

For more information visit the Department of Fish and Game's “Keep Me Wild” Web page at .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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