Local mountain lion sightings are nothing new to the Tehachapi community — but it’s another story when a lion and her kittens are not far away from your residence and you see them during the day.
Tehachapi resident Ruth Olivas wants to inform her neighborhood on Water Canyon Road that a family of mountain lions is in the area. This has spurred questions about safety and living so close.
“People like to go out and enjoy nature and they forget these predators are out there,” Olivas said. “This mother mountain lion has given birth to four kittens here in the neighborhood and I’m nervous.”
Olivas noticed the full-grown female around a den with her kittens and one time even lounging under a tree in the back of her rental home.
“She likes to lay on the rocks and nurse her kittens,” Olivas said. She added that deer frequent the area and she wants people to be aware of the possible threat to their safety.
Mountain lions in California are a protected species, and typically do not live near residential areas.
There are steps that can be taken in some circumstances that warrant the removal of the lion, said Peter Tira, public information officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Just a sighting doesn’t warrant an action, but we will get calls that a mountain lion did attack their sheep or dog — that attack needs to be confirmed by someone from the department and investigated,” said Tira.
If there is a threat to public safety in an urban area, it's proved that livestock are being killed or they are within the proximity of a school or public gathering place, the lion could be killed. A depredation permit would be required, Tira said.
The nature of the animal being near residential houses, but in a rural area, is a different story.
“It would be our preference not to intervene, because it’s in a natural habitat. Signs are a good idea to let people know it’s in the area,” said Tira. He added, “We advise keeping distance from the lion and being aware.”
Lion attacks to livestock can be prevented by building enclosures, and not walking alone or entering the area where the animal is known to live, and not feeding deer on their property, said Tira.
Mountain lion hunting is illegal in California, due to passage of Proposition 117 in 1990. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife “will not relocate the animal because of the risk it could pose to others,” according to wildlife.ca.gov.
Attacks to humans are rare.
"There have been only 16 verified mountain lion attacks on humans in California since 1890, six of them fatal. The last documented attack occurred in September 2014 in Santa Clara County," added wildlife.ca.gov.
For more information, visit wildlife.ca.gov for more information.