The Colusa Fish and Game Commission is still apprehensive about the mountain lion that ran through town, and into a woman’s apartment, on July 4. But since options are limited on how to deal with the big cat, the commission plans to focus on spreading awareness to deter further encounters.
The commission voted unanimously to petition local city councils, and the Colusa Board of Supervisors, to fund the placement of permanent signage warning of mountain lion sightings. At this point, the commission would like to see signage at River Front Park and Stonyford – places the cats have allegedly been spotted.
Experts from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and UC Davis attended Wednesday’s meeting to discuss statistics and policies relating to mountain lion encounters. Originally, the commission was interested in applying for a permit to hunt the mountain lion from July 4 – in addition to relocation and increased tracking efforts – but Fish and Wildlife members said the department had limited options.
“We’re doing what we can with our current budget,” said Justin Dellinger, mountain lion and wolf researcher for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There’s not as much money coming in for lion management because there’s no hunting of the animal.”
However, Fish and Wildlife is attempting to track mountain lions in the area; the department tries to monitor as many as possible in the state, according to Dellinger. In the area spanning from lower Glenn County and all of Colusa and Sutter counties, Fish and Wildlife has found seven mountain lions so far.
“We know there are females living here full-time, but we’re not sure about males,” Dellinger said. “Of the seven, there’s a mom with three kittens.”
Although this area has a relatively small population of big cats, according to Dellinger, members of the commission were concerned about the potential for the population to increase, and the effect it would have on public safety.
“The concern is this population will grow,” said John Troughton, commissioner of Colusa Fish and Game. “I’ve heard of more being seen by the rivers, and one young man told me he found tracks in an orchard by the casino. I’d like to see us do something before we have a statistic.”
However, Fish and Wildlife said for the most part, people have little reason to be afraid of mountain lion attacks. According to the department’s research, deaths caused by mountain lions happen once every 10 years; while non-lethal attacks happen once every two and a half years on average.
“It’s possible for someone to be within 50 yards of a lion and not know and walk away from it,” Dellinger said. “There’s so few encounters with humans; honestly I’d rather take my chances in the ring with a mountain lion over driving to my office on I-5.”
Dr. Winston Vickers, a mountain lion expert from UC Davis, said livestock and pets are not generally the cats’ prey of choice, but they aren’t one to turn down an easy meal when the situation presents itself.
Fish and Wildlife representatives provide landowners with advice on how to properly enclose domestic animals to deter predator interest.