Almanac

News - March 24, 2010

Reported mountain lion sightings way up this year

by Dave Boyce

Reported mountain lion sightings in San Mateo County seem on track to exceed 30 this year, up from six in 2008 and 14 in 2009.

In response to an Almanac request, the county Sheriff's Office listed eight sighting reports in 2010, and the first quarter is not yet over. The list did not include sightings on March 18 and 21 in Emerald Hills in unincorporated Woodside.

The list also did not note two Woodside sightings reported to The Almanac: Tuesday, March 2, on Roan Place at 7:45 a.m.; and Wednesday, March 3, on Patrol Road at 9:45 p.m.

The Santa Cruz Range "has always been known to have a large number of lions," said Tim Dunbar, the executive director of the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation.

As to the increased number of sightings, Mr. Dunbar noted that it's migration time, and that bobcats and coyotes are also mistaken for lions.

Lions are "very much self-limiting" in population control, he said. Resident males will not only expel other males but are so territorial that, other than in breeding season, they have killed females and even their own offspring, he said.

Asked to comment on a lion that cleared a 5-foot-high fence to attack a pygmy goat in a Portola Valley backyard, Mr. Dunbar was nonplused. A mountain lion has a vertical leap of 12 feet to 15 feet, he said. "These guys are strong," he added. "Their leap is phenomenal."

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