Three Rivers residents who live near the Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park are reporting that at least one mountain lion has been active in the upper canyon, evidenced by two recent deer kills. One kill was discovered in October near the Ash Mountain Recreation Hall along Sycamore Drive inside the national park boundary.
Last week, another deer kill was discovered near Buckeye Tree Lodge on the opposite bank of the riverfront property. Tell-tale signs of lion kills are large throat wounds and disembowelment of the prey.
Typically, the lion will tackle its prey with a bite to the throat and use its powerful hind legs to tear at the midsection.
There has never been a report of a person being killed by a mountain lion in Tulare County. In recent years a female runner in Auburn (2004) and a male bike rider stooping down to fix a flat tire in Orange County (1994) both succumbed to injuries after being attacked by a mountain lion.
The recent rains made it easy to spot fresh lion tracks on several roads and trails in the Kaweah canyon, including on the Kaweah Trail at Lake Kaweah. With the extremely dry conditions, the lions are following the deer, which are present in greater numbers this season along migratory routes to access river and lake water.
The best way to avoid an encounter with a mountain lion is safety awareness. Keep these tips in mind:
—Talk with your children about mountain lions and what to do if they encounter one.
—Closely supervise children when they are playing outdoors.
—Remove vegetation cover that could hide a lion near your home.
—Do not attract wildlife, especially deer, into your yard by putting out feed or salt.
—Bring pets in at night.
—Don’t leave pet or livestock feed out overnight.
—When you walk or hike in lion country, go in groups and keep small children close.
—Never approach a mountain lion.
Just as with some other outdoor scenarios, such as grizzly encounters or being in a lightning storm, there is no best course of action that guarantees escape from injury, but here’s what someone should do if a mountain lion is encountered:
—Stay calm and talk to the mountain lion in a confident voice.
—Pick up small children immediately.
—Do not run from or turn your back on a mountain lion.
—Back slowly away from the lion.
—Do all you can to enlarge your image.
—If a mountain lion attacks, try to remain standing and fight back with sticks, rocks, or whatever is at hand.
An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions live in California. Typically, they avoid interaction with humans, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports attacks are rare.