Mountain lion visits Woodside home | News | Almanac Online |


Mountain lion visits Woodside home


Click on picture to enlarge and view caption.

By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

That Woodside is mountain lion country is not news. Sightings in Woodside are a regular feature of the county-wide e-mail alert system. Observers, when interviewed, tend to feel blessed by the experience.

Thirty-year resident Sabrina Pospisil, for example, saw one at 7:10 a.m. on Friday, March 12, from her home office window on Roan Place. "He was beautiful, Oh, he was so beautiful," she said in an interview. "He looked so healthy. The eyes looked bigger and rounder (than I was used to). He was full of life."

What scared Ms. Pospisil was the lion's return after an apparent earlier visit, and its confidence in parading up her front steps and through her yard. "He's just walking along, broadcasting 'king of beasts,'" Ms. Pospisil said as she ascended her stairs and tried to emulate its stride.

"They seem to like stairs! They like the entrance to my house!" she added. "I never dreamed they'd be walking up here in the open. ... To me, this is dangerous."

Four young children live nearby and this is the second lion sighting at her home and the third in the area in 10 days, she said.

"I would be terrified if my kids lived here," she said. "This is kind of a warning and we all need to think about what we're doing here. What is the sensible thing to do?"

A San Mateo County Sheriff's Office advisory distributed in response to the incidents warns residents to supervise children outside, to be cautious at dawn, dusk and at night, and, if the lion seems confrontational, to stand your ground, appear as large as possible and fight back if attacked.

Ms. Pospisil, a psychotherapist, has this warning posted on a cabinet in her waiting room. In the March 12 sighting, a client in session with her and facing a large window had pointed out the lion approaching her house.

Therapists are in the business of comforting people. "All my patients, I have to advise them" about the lions, she said. "That's not too comforting."

Ms. Pospisil is no novice to lion encounters, having joined the Peace Corps in 1968 and gone to Africa. "I've been around a lot of lions," she said.

This reporter asked her if she might be overreacting in that this lion does not appear to have threatened anyone. "Wait until a lion walks around your yard twice in a week and you'll feel differently," she replied, then added, "Maybe I'm not as brave anymore."

A housecat, but larger

Jeannine DeWald, a wildlife biologist at the Monterey office of the Department of Fish and Game, said in an interview that such incidents are not usually cause for alarm.

A lion sauntering through a yard is "a little unusual," Ms. DeWald said, but this animal was unaware that humans were watching. "What we go on is its behavior when it spots a person," she said.

Ms. Pospisil said that when she appeared outside on an elevated deck, the cat moved a little faster but did not appear frightened.

The behavior of a housecat is apparently instructive in reading a mountain lion's intentions.

Go to this link for more.

Mountain lions have evolved to kill deer, Ms. DeWald said. The likelihood of an attack is proportional to one's deer-like appearance. "They will take other things, but they are way down the list," she added.

As to how to fight back, Ms. DeWald recommends carrying a tall wooden walking stick that you can wave to look larger. "If push comes to shove, it (also) gives you something you can fight back with," she said.

Any predator, in considering prey, will always weigh the possibility of serious injury to itself, she added.

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Like this comment
Posted by Ray
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

Shoot, shovel and shhhhhh.

Like this comment
Posted by Danna
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

lucky you. I have been waiting 30 years to see one. I would love it!

Like this comment
Posted by I voted NO on Prop 107!
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Well now 25 years later and here we are. As housing increases so will mans encroachment into the lions habitat. If we are to manage the ecosystem as the number one predator we must manage all the species and that includes the predators. Instead of letting the voters decide how to manage our ecosystem we should let the experts do it, biologist and the D,F&G. Currently there are about 130 lions dispatched yearly with depredation permits and then only when someone has been attacked, lost huge amounts of livestock or been killed. Just think about how many lions there are in California, when we past Prop 107 they said there were less than 5,000. I don't think so even with the best science how can you believe such a shy secretive animal could be accurately counted. We should have never let the voters decide this but now how do we change it? Unfortunately we will live with it.

Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Why didn't she take a picture of it with her digital camera or cell phone?

Like this comment
Posted by a photographer
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Thank you for that behavior link. Glad I wasn't the photographer. I think the cat would win, not me.

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