Mountain lion sightings in Berkeley raise concerns

“Neighborhood watch dog” Yeti on alert in front of a sign warning of mountain lion sightings in Berkeley. Photo: Robin Gal

Concerns about mountain lions prowling the Berkeley hills are mounting with new reported sightings and the posting of signs alerting local residents to their possible presence.

On Thursday Nov. 15, UC Berkeley police received unconfirmed information of a mountain lion sighting near Building 26 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). UCPD conducted a search of the area and was unable to locate any signs of mountain lion activity or presence.

The last sighting reported in the media was on Oct. 19 when a woman walking with her child in a stroller and their dog on a trail spotted a cougar next to a Kensington home near the Berkeley border.

Until yesterday, the last mountain lion report received by the California Department of Fish & Game was on Oct. 11, according to Lt. Patrick Foy, who added that it was never confirmed.

The incident on Oct. 11 resulted in some staff at the Berkeley Lab being told to shelter in place after reports of a female lion and her cubs on Lab property.

Foy said the department receives daily calls about mountain lions from around in the state. He said generally law enforcement would not take any action automatically, unless the animal is posing a direct threat. He added that although the department is sometimes asked to relocate the animals, this isn’t often a step it would take.

Berkeley resident Robin Gal said two signs have recently been posted behind her home on Summit Road. “We have had mountain lions before, but never have we had the signs. Perhaps the population has increased, or perhaps the Eucalyptus reduction at Berkeley Labs changed their habitat?” she said. It is not clear who posted the signs.

Deer are a major food source for mountain lions. Last year, several sightings of mountain lions occurred in the hills above the Berkeley campus and carcasses of animals suspected to have been attacked by mountain lions were also discovered.

On Aug. 17, the sighting of a female mountain lion with her cubs also put the Lab on alert. And in July there was concern that a lion with her cubs might be living near the Greek Theatre after they were seen on Gayley Road.

Gal took a photo of Yeti, who she refers to as the “neighborhood watch patrol dog who is blind and deaf” next to one of the signs. “I am not walking him in the early morning or late evenings; a recent change of habit! ” she said.

Update, 11.17.12: Read guidelines issued by UCPD on how to prevent encounters with mountain lions and what to do if you do encounter one.

Mountain lion closes parts of road, Lab staff shelter in place [10.11.12]
Berkeley Lab on alert after sighting of lion and cubs [08.17.12]
Mountain lion and her cubs spotted in Berkeley hills [07.24.12]
Mountain lion possibly spotted at UC apartments Tuesday [01.12.12]
Mountain lion tours Gourmet Ghetto [8.31.10]

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  • With young hot attractive women in Berkeley, no need to chase cougars. :-)

  • BerkeleyDeer

    Oh, Deer! As if humans weren’t enough trouble already! I’m hoofing it out of here. It’s not even safe to sit on the sidewalks anymore!

  • Gnuut

    Dogs and cats also make excellent cougar food.

  • another BUSD parent

    That’s (pictured) a very small cougar…..

  • Jan

    I saw a small one this morning while hiking on a trail in the Berkeley Hills.

  • Alan G.

    According to an excellent presentation by Zara McDonald of the Bay Area Puma Project, females with cubs aren’t dangerous to humans unless one comes between her and her cubs.  Their primary source of food is deer.  Of the extremely infrequent attacks on humans, it is usually a young male, searching out a new territory and who is not yet an experienced hunter.

  • jean

    It would be great to know what the recommended thing to do is if one encounters a mountain lion in the hills.

  • Brad

    Having seen several species of cats in the wild, including a full grown adult mountain lion, I wonder how many of these sitings are actual mountain lions and how many are lynx. 

  • Wendy

    Not funny, both sexist and ageist.  And this is the polite version of my reply.

  • ka_bleep

    chances are that they’re in the vicinity more often than you might guess, we just don’t notice them watching because that’s their special skill.  it’s best to always assume that they’re in the area.  avoid stooping down or bending over, this makes you appear smaller than you are. this is especially important if you’re alone.  if you do have to bend over like to tie your shoes, then make yourself look as large as possible before you do it… arms out & up at sides, puff your chest and let out a gnarly yell.

    bumbling into one on a path is very rare as they’re usually not that obvious.  to have some fun while making sure you’re not being followed, play weirdo of the trail every few minutes, jump, look big, clap your hands and make loud sounds.  this will startle off any lion that’s considering stalking you, or if one is already hunting in the area you will have effectively blown its cover & they tend to move on.

    failing that and you do run into one on a trail DO NOT run or turn your back, no matter how badly your instincts nag you. doing so triggers a “chase is on” instinct and they will not give up without at least trying their damnedest to attack you. instead just stop, look right at it and again make yourself big and make lots of noise.  if you’re with another person stand abreast/sidebyside with arms out so you look hench.  if you’re with a child get them to stand behind you (put yourself between the lion and the kid).  throw whatever you can & make noise.  strong, boomy noises.

    if you followed your guts, ran, and it has tackled you, never play dead. instead fight like hell.  all it takes is one clamp on the neck, which is usually their focus for every strike attempt, and you’re a goner. mountain lions aren’t scavenging hunters, which means they only very rarely will begin to eat before the prey is dead.  if they think you’re dead they’ll start to eat your or try to drag you to their den.

    nobody should take their dogs for a walk on the trails where there’s been sightings if they don’t have another human to go with them.  if you insist on going alone, KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH.  they will bail at sign of lion, and lion will give chase and eat your dog.  with the exception of only a few breeds, mountain lions run at least twice as fast as dogs.  they will have no chance.

  • Jean: thanks for reminding us about safety tips. I have added a link to guidelines issued by UCPD.

  • gradientblue

    Are there any cases of mountain lions chasing dogs?  Do they only chase small ones?  According to the puma expert at BAPP, pumas are afraid of dogs and will run from them or avoid contact.  Here is at least one example of a (75lb) dog chasing a a mountain lion up a tree.

  • guest

    Sexist, maybe, ageist , yes.
    But definitely funny ^_^