Mountain lion sightings in Santa Cruz County raise pet safety concerns
CDFW offers tips for keeping pets and livestock safe
Following several mountain lion sightings in Boulder Creek and forested areas of Santa Cruz County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding residents to take precautions to keep pets safe. In addition to recent sightings, there have been several unconfirmed reports of pets taken in the Boulder Creek area which could be attributed to any number of predators including mountain lions, coyotes or bobcats.
CDFW will be hosting a public meeting on mountain lion deterrence on June 17 at 1 p.m. at the Boulder Creek Fire Department. The meeting can also be attended virtually. Check CDFW’s mountain lion web page for the Zoom link and meeting information.
“Mountain lions typically avoid humans, but they can take pets and livestock easily if residents don’t take precautions. Implementing deterrence efforts can be effective,” said Haley Jones, CDFW Human-Wildlife Conflict biologist.
CDFW recommends keeping pets indoors whenever possible to protect them from all predators, including mountain lions. This recommendation applies everywhere in California but especially to residents who live in areas adjacent to wildlife habitat.
For cats that go outside, residents can invest in an outdoor cat enclosure, often called a cat patio or “catio.” Dogs should be kept inside overnight and ideally supervised while outside. Dog owners can invest in lighted collars as a visual deterrent or protective collars designed to lessen the impact of predator bites.
For outdoor animals such as chickens, ducks, goats or other livestock, residents can invest in enclosures and other improvements such as predator proof fencing.
For people who recreate outdoors, CDFW recommends going with a group and avoiding hiking at dusk and dawn. CDFW also recommends carrying a noise deterrent such as a self-defense alarm keychain.
“Even talking loudly when outside can be a deterrent. There’s been research showing mountain lions avoid areas where they can hear people talking. Other predators such as coyotes and bobcats may also avoid approaching when they hear humans,” said Jones.
Here are some additional safety measures that residents can take:
- Remove dense vegetation from around the home to reduce hiding spaces.
- Install outdoor lighting to make it difficult for predators to approach unseen.
- Secure livestock and outdoor pets in sturdy, covered shelters, especially at night.
- Deer-proof your property to avoid attracting a lion's main food source.
“Mountain lions don’t want to be near people, but they sometimes cut through our neighborhoods to get to suitable habitat. They’ll take advantage of an easy meal if they see one, so as pet owners it's on us to make small adjustments,” said Jones.
Residents are encouraged to report mountain lion sightings and encounters to CDFW through its Wildlife Incident Reporting system.
“The reports help us track and keep data current so we can inform communities,” said Jones.
Mountain lions live across much of California including along urban-wildland interfaces where they hunt for deer and other animals. They are ecosystem contributors and a crucial part of maintaining habitat biodiversity. However, it’s typically rare to see a mountain lion because they are elusive creatures. If you do see a mountain lion or mountain lion cub, do not approach it or intervene. Remember that adult mountain lions, when out hunting prey, may leave offspring somewhere safe for up to several days at a time. Questions and concerns can be directed to your regional CDFW office or by submitting a Wildlife Incident Report.
For additional information visit CDFW’s mountain lion web page and CDFW’s Human-Wildlife Conflicts toolkit.
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120