Officials warn not to leave food out for birds, other
Morgan Hill – Two mountain lion sightings in Morgan Hill this week are no real cause for alarm, but Animal Control Officer Daniel Pena warned residents not to invite the animals.
“Don’t leave food out for birds and other animals,” he said.
Mountain lion sightings occur year-round, and Pena attributes this to people feeding the wildlife.
“What happens is people put food out for stray cats and even bird feed, this attracts other wildlife, the field mice, the raccoons who eat the field mice and the cats, and this is causing a problem,” said Pena.
On Sunday, a large mountain lion was spotted on the top of a pine tree in a field near a new house on Bentley Drive, but the animal ran off. Another mountain lion was sighted at Scott’s Bluff Place Monday just before 1pm.
In August, a young mountain lion was seen at a ranch off Day Road near Santa Teresa Boulevard. Deputies with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office discovered the cougar, described as weighing about 50 pounds, curled up behind a garbage can in a tack room. The four deputies eventually scared it out of the tack room, and it ran toward an open hillside about a mile away.
In May, a mountain lion was spotted in a tree near Burnett Elementary School for almost two hours, before fleeing. Students were kept in their classrooms for 30 minutes after it was seen nearby. As soon as sheriff’s deputies arrived with tranquilizer guns, the animal fled toward Fisher Creek, away from the school, located northwest of the city.
Mountain lion sightings in the area are a common occurrence according to animal control officers with the Fish and Wildlife Service. In March 2004, three older cubs were found in a residential backyard next to Shadow Mountain School at Llagas and Hale avenues. One escaped and was killed by a passing car; a second one was tranquilized and later released. The third was shot and killed by police after tranquilizer darts failed and the animal tried to get into a house.
Mountain lions also have been sighted at the Gavilan College campus south of Gilroy and in the hills east of Morgan Hill.
Mountain lion sightings in the east and west hills surrounding Morgan Hill are also becoming more common as cities expand farther into hillside areas where mountain lions have made their habitat.
Called cougars, pumas, or panthers, mountain lions are found throughout California, and can be identified by their uniformly colored coat that ranges from tan to gray, and black-tipped ears and tails.
When people encounter mountain lions roaming the neighborhood, there is little cause for panic, Henry Coletto, wildlife deputy for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, said.
Unless the animal poses an imminent threat and is likely to attack, it is not considered a public safety risk. The animal only will be killed in extreme circumstances, when it endangers a person’s life.
While they are normally not aggressive, other factors can come into play that can make them aggressive, such as being hungry, sick or scared, Commander Terrie Booten of the Morgan Hill Police Department cautioned.
She advises anyone who comes in contact with a mountain lion to contact the police department, and “make a lot of noise, don’t run or cower down or attempt to hide, because they may think you’re prey.”
Booten said feces collected from the mountain lion sighted on Bentley Drive will be examined so authorities will know more about what the cougar is eating.
Rose Meily is a staff writer. Reach her at 779-4106 ext. 201 or by e-mail at [email protected]