A young female mountain lion is calling the Sutter Buttes home. But despite previous information, the big cat was not purposely placed there by the state.
An official from the Department of Fish and Wildlife said residents should not be overly concerned.
During a meeting with the Colusa Fish and Game Commission on July 13, local game warden Brett Gomes said a mountain lion had been captured in Oroville and relocated to the Sutter Buttes. Gomes shared the information because the commission was discussing how to deal with a mountain lion that visited Colusa and broke into a woman’s apartment on Independence Day.
But Fish and Wildlife’s official mountain lion and gray wolf researcher, Justin Dellinger, said the big cat was not purposely released into the Sutter Buttes.
“On June 14, we responded to the call of a young mountain lion in an orchard near Palermo,” Dellinger said. “It was about 60 pounds; a very young cat, about 8-10 months old. It wasn’t quite old enough to be without its mother, but we couldn’t find her.”
Dellinger wanted to make sure she had a chance of survival so he decided to relocate her to the Butte Basin Wildlife Area in Glenn County, where there is plenty of small game for the cat to feed on.
“We always try to put them on public land,” Dellinger said. “Being so small she can’t hunt large game like deer yet. There’s a lot of small game she can survive on – like turkeys and rabbits. We want to give her the best chance possible in a place where she wouldn’t get into trouble.”
As a mountain lion researcher, Dellinger is tasked with capturing and outfitting the large cats with tracking collars; the practice is intended to help researchers better understand the cats’ behavior. He outfitted the young female caught in Palermo with one of the trackers.
“We collared her and noticed she moved on to Grey Lodge, then the Sutter Buttes,” Dellinger said. “I’m not sure why she decided to move, but it was of her own volition. She’s been there (Sutter Buttes) about three weeks.”
After reading about the mountain lion’s presence in the July 14 edition of the Appeal-Democrat, Garry Laughlin, a landowner in the Sutter Buttes, drafted a letter to Sutter County supervisors and Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, concerning the big cat.
“I am personally concerned for the safety of my grandchildren, pets and livestock,” Laughlin said in a letter to local representatives. “Fish and Wildlife should be required to remove this large carnivorous predator from the Buttes before someone’s children or pets are mauled or killed.”
Despite landowner trepidation at having a mountain lion roaming the Sutter Buttes, Dellinger said residents shouldn’t be too concerned because the big cats generally avoid people. He also pointed out this particular mountain lion is too small to bring down livestock.
“There aren’t enough attacks in the state for people to lose sleep over it,” Dellinger said. “For folks worried about their animals, it’s always good practice to pen them or bring them inside; practice good animal husbandry. If something does happen, we have laws in place to deal with it.”
Fish and Wildlife has not received any reports of mountain lion sightings in the Sutter Buttes since the young female moved in, according to Dellinger. He’s unsure if the big cat will decide to stay permanently, but she will be able to sustain herself on small prey; one day, the cat might turn her sights on the wild hogs terrorizing the Sutter Buttes.
“We’ve documented the cats killing wild pigs in Southern California,” Dellinger said. “She may go after smaller animals because of how dangerous they are, and how small, young and inexperienced she is. But if she stays and grows into a capable adult, it’s possible.”
Dellinger believes the young female may be the only mountain lion living in the Sutter Buttes. He said it’s unlikely she’ll find a mate and have cubs while living there because males are attracted to areas with a large number of females.
Next month, Dellinger will attend the next meeting for Colusa Fish and Game to lend his expertise to the mountain lion incident in Colusa. He believes the occurrence proves mountain lions are afraid of people.
“Any animal expert who watches this video of the mountain lion in Colusa knows it was scared,” Dellinger said. “Jumping through the window was weird, but the cat was inside an apartment with a lady and it wanted nothing to do with her. It had plenty of opportunity to swipe, but it just wanted to get out of there.”