Sunday, 14 August 2022

Mountain lions pose low risk to humans, says warden

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Mountain lions and humans can co-exist as long as precautions are taken, says Game Warden Lynette Shimek. Department of Fish and Game file photo.

 


LAKE COUNTY – It can be unnerving to see a mountain lion, but a local game warden says that as long as county residents are careful they can live side by side with the big cats.


Clearlake Riviera residents reported to Lake County News on Saturday that a large mountain lion was spotted in the brush near their home that afternoon.


Lynette Shimek, one of Lake County's Department of Fish and Game wardens, emphasized the low threat level that mountain lions actually pose with regard to humans, but also suggested caution in order to allow humans and animals to live together.


Shimek said the county is home to many mountain lions, and Fish and Game receives numerous reports of the animals from all over Lake County.


One older animal – dubbed the “Buckingham Lion” – often is seen while crossing the road to the lake, said Shimek, who added that the big cat has never hurt anybody.


She estimated that the most calls reporting sightings come from the Clearlake Riviera and Hidden Valley Lake. That's because those areas have high concentrations of both people – who see the mountain lions – and deer, a mountain lion food source.


The coming together of deer and people causes another issue, said Shimek: people tend to feed the deer, which over time lose their ability to forage and feed on their own.


Feeding deer is illegal, said Shimek. It also brings deer close to people, and where there are deer there will be mountain lions.


Shimek said Fish and Game is constantly trying to educate the public about the realities of sharing their environment with mountain lions.


The risk to humans, said Shimek, is normally very low.


However, there are warning signs that people should watch for, Shimek added.


Mountain lions are very secretive. If they're spotted close to a home during the day, don't run away when they see a human or show aggressive signs when a human is near – such as flattening their ears, flattening their body to the ground or lashing their tail – then Shimek said Fish and Game wants to know about it.


“Very few people ever see a mountain lion,” said Shimek.


However, when they do, it's likeliest to happen early in the morning or at night, said Shimek.


The time between dusk and dawn is when people should keep pets and children close to home or indoors to be safe, she said.


Only in cases of livestock predation or where a risk is posed to public safety does Fish and Game actually trap or – in some cases – kill mountain lions, said Shimek.


The emphasis, she said, is on learning to take precautions and live with wildlife.


When seeing a mountain lion in the wild that isn't posing any threat, rather than being worried people should instead count their blessings, said Shimek, because it's a sign the animals are still a part of the environment.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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