Submitted by Escondido Creek Conservancy
Earlier this month, fresh mountain lion tracks were seen by our land managers and a sighting was reported by a local volunteer, all within a 2-mile stretch of the Escondido Creek near Elfin Forest. These sightings have raised excitement at the possibility that such a majestic creature is visiting our watershed, but there are also safety concerns. Based on the size of the tracks, we are speculating it is a young female mountain lion out exploring territory.
“Recreating outdoors means we are visiting the homes of wildlife. As good neighbors, we should be respectful and always cautious and aware of our surroundings,” says Conservancy Conservation Land Manager, Hannah Walchak. “It’s especially important to respect trail closures and stay out of wildlands between dusk and dawn, when animals are more active.”
While you’re much more likely to fall victim to a snake bite or be struck by lightning, understanding animal behavior can help reduce the risk of getting yourself into trouble. Going out in small groups is recommended and you may want to make noise on the trail so animals are warned of your presence and have time to flee. Keep your headphones off while on the trail so you can stay aware of any creature or hazard that might cross your path.
Their existence as a predator species is important in our watershed, however, we shouldn’t get caught up in the excitement of seeing one in the wild or in our neighborhoods. Maintaining a healthy balance of fear between people and predators—like the mountain lion—protects humans and protects wildlife. If you encounter a mountain lion in wildlands, do not run or turn your back. If you have small children or dogs with you, immediately pick them up. Slowly back away while maintaining eye contact and making yourself appear larger. You can also make yourself appear more threatening by making menacing sounds and collecting nearby rocks or sticks so that if they were to attack, you’re ready to fight back. Striking them may cause the animal to retreat.
If you see a mountain lion in or near your home, shout, bang pots, or use anything you can find that makes noise to scare them away. By being scary and loud, you may feel ridiculous, but you are really giving a gift to the mountain lion as its natural instinct is to be frightened of humans and, if it stays frightened, it’ll have a better chance of a long life in the wild.
If you do see signs of a mountain lion, please report them to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep the community updated.