Mountain lion traps set up around Cal State San Marcos

Cal State sightings prompt precautions

By Sherry Saavedra UNION-TRIBUNE
December 27, 2007

SAN MARCOS – Traps have been placed around Cal State San Marcos following recent mountain lion sightings.

George Cagala, a university spokesman, said a maintenance crew spotted a mountain lion multiple times early this month, always late at night – by the library and toward the back of campus. The university contacted the California Department of Fish and Game on Dec. 10, Cagala said, and then agency officials spotted mountain lion tracks. Traps were set by a classroom building and in the back of one parking lot. “The good news is that the campus is pretty clear of people,” Cagala said. Students have been on winter break since Dec. 15, he said. However, Cal State San Marcos is surrounded by homes, a shopping center and a light industrial area. The traps were set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services unit, said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the state wildlife agency.

No mountain lion has been caught. There have been no additional mountain lion sightings on the campus since mid-December, Cagala said. “They’re probably going to keep the traps up through Sunday and then remove them unless there are additional sightings,” Martarano said. There have been other sightings of mountain lions near college campuses, Martarano said. In November 2006, a mountain lion was captured at Humboldt State University in Northern California. It was tranquilized by a wildlife professor and released in a remote area. Mountain lions are a protected species in California, but can be trapped or killed when they present a public safety threat or have attacked pets or livestock, Martarano said. There have been 16 mountain lion attacks on people in California since 1890. Six were fatal.

The following safety tips are provided by the California Department of Fish and Game. They are based on studies of mountain behavior and analysis of attacks by mountain lions.
  • Don’t hike alone. Go in groups, with adults supervising children an keep children close to you. Observations of captured mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. Keep children within your sight at all times.
  • Don’t approach a lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Don’t run from a lion. Running stimulates a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so that they don’t panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the lion.
  • Don’t crouch or bend over. A squatting or bending person looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal.
  • Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice.
  • Fight back if attacked. Some hikers have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. For more information about mountain lions, contact the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), case of emergency call the DFG at 916-445-0045

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