An orange tabby, skulking in the bushes, recently became the latest example of the approximately 87 percent of all mountain lion sightings that turn out to be false.
The incident started when the Tracy, California Police Department received several calls from residents reporting a mountain lion in Clyde Bland Park near Interstate 205.
One report even stated that a person appeared to be walking with the mountain lion.
At that point the nearby Freiler School was placed on lockdown as a precaution, and police and animal control officers were dispatched to the scene.
Upon arriving, one of the police officers, armed with a rifle, climbed the bank of the I-205 sound wall to search, while an animal control officer watched from the ground.
It was at this point that the small, orange tabby showed itself and the safety alert called off.
While this all sounds like something to laugh about, it's important to keep three facts in mind.
First, most lion sightings, even those by experienced observers turn out to be false. Usually it turns out to be a large dog.
Second, lion sightings, confirmed as well as false, tend to increase a community's anxiety level and generates a fear factor that usually bodes ill for all lions in the area. Some state game agencies even use these sightings - without differentiating between the two categories - to justify "zero tolerance" policies, and the lethal removal of all lions from large geographic regions; all in the name of public safety.
And third, while the armed police officer in this incident might have felt silly confronting a house cat, it must be understood and appreciated that he was willing to place his life on the line to protect the public from all dangers - real as well as perceived.