Woodland stream.

Drought driving mountain lions, coyotes into foothill communities

The Following Story is a repost from the San Bernardino Sun and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin written by Doug Saunders, of the San Bernardino Sun, and Liset Marquez, and Greg Cappis of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Posted: 08/01/14, 9:56 PM PDT

Mountain lions indigenous to life in the foothills are making their way into neighborhoods, possibly looking for food and water.

The cougars are likely following their main food source, deer, into urban areas after fires and drought have diminished their mountainside resources, according to Tim Dunbar, executive director of the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation.

"That sort of exacerbates your problem," he said. "The fire and drought keeps reducing the amount of space that the mountain lions and deer have to travel, so they're getting more and more into human developed areas."

Steven Silva, who has a 3-year-old daughter, has lived in Rancho Cucamonga on and off for most of his life. He said he heard about a mountain lion sighting a couple of weeks ago on Somerset Drive, just around the block from his house.

Silva, 35, said he is not too concerned about his safety but thinks the Etiwanda Fire may have affected the cougars' food and water supply.

"They would pop up every once in a while, a couple of times a year, but I'm not too concerned," Silva said. "This is their area, we are living in their area, so it's up to us to kind of manage it and be conscientious of them, stay out of their way, and hope they don't come down too far."

Dunbar said residents can help keep the lions away by removing from their yards potential prey and items that may attract wildlife.

He suggested keeping pets indoors at night - mountain lions' most active hunting time - and getting rid of water troughs that may attract deer or other animals onto their property.

"Once again if you're keeping a food source near your house, you're possibly inviting the predators in," Dunbar said.

But for Mary and Fred Gilley, who live in the 8900 block of Manzanita Court, the mountain lions have already come too close to home. The couple lost their eight-year-old poodle, Lady, to a mountain lion around 9:30 p.m. July 25.

The big cat was first sighted at a house across from the horse trail next to the Gilleys' back yard, Fred said.

Shortly after that, the couple said, their dogs started to bark and went outside.

"They ran out the door, and they knew something was out there and were barking furiously," he said. "Well, the mountain lion must've heard them and I think it jumped over the 10-foot wall, came in and snatched her and then took off."

Similar situations have occurred in other parts of the Southland.

Sitting on the outskirts of Los Angeles, bordering the Verdugo Mountains and filled with television studios and some of the Hollywood elite, sits Burbank where one homeowner recently captured a pack of coyotes on video outside his home.

The homeowner, Nick Mendoza, said the pack of more than a dozen coyotes seemed like they were on the hunt for food.

Another area homeowner captured footage of the pack July 16 and put the video on YouTube.com.

In June, Burbank also had two sightings of mountain lions and sent out warnings to residents on how to deal with the wildcats if they come across one in their neighborhoods.

"They're looking for food and water," said one Burbank police officer. "The drought is pushing them into neighborhoods. It's a survival instinct for them."

But residents can exhale a bit, knowing cougars do not instinctively hunt humans.

"We don't look right," said Dunbar, the mountain lion expert. "We're standing up on two legs."
But the big cats are opportunistic hunters and running past or away from them could incite their predatory instincts, he said.

If you see a mountain lion, experts say to make yourself look big and intimidating - raise your arms, open your jacket, start yelling, jump up and down, maybe hurl a rock in the animal's direction.

"They can't afford to be injured and take risks or else they won't be able to hunt," Dunbar said, so they normally retreat after feeling threatened.

Regardless, interactions with mountain lions can leave lasting impacts.

The Gilleys have lived in their home since October and this was first time they've had to deal with mountain lions. The couple moved from the Bay Area to Rancho Cucamonga but used to live in Upland, Mary said.

"It's just unnerving me so bad because I don't want to lose him too," she said, referring to two-year-old Cole, the son of Lady.

Fred said he went out to the back yard with a flashlight and tried looking for her dog. They called the Sheriff's Department, which had already been called, and three units were out patrolling the streets and the horse trail behind their home.

"I called the police on Saturday, and they told me they didn't find anything," he said. "It's strange to me that the lion came all the way down from the foothills and came back up and no one saw it at all."

While Mary shared memories of her gray showdog poodle, Cole ran circles around her. For the first few days after the incident with Lady, Mary said Cole would not leave her side.

Since then the couple have brought in all the water bowls into the house and no longer let Cole out after dusk. If they do, it is only in the front yard and he is on a leash.

"I'm scared to death because I don't want to lose Cole," Mary said, "and I don't want us to be attacked, too."



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