Alpine County home to mountain lions |

Alpine County home to mountain lions

by Kurt Hildebrand

Last November, Markleeville resident Nancy Thornburg heard a single bark from her Queensland heeler, Joey, and then nothing more. The next morning she found hair and blood where Joey used to be.

Joey was a 13-year-old watch dog who had once treed a bear for two days.

“We heard his bear bark,” Thornburg said. “Then nothing. We found out what happened the next day.”

A mountain lion is prowling the eastern Sierra and has taken several dogs Russ Wickwire said at last week’s 2007 Fishery/Forestry program in Markleeville.

Wickwire said a mountain lion had been sighted near Diamond Valley School and that residents don’t let their dogs out for fear they will become prey.

Maureen Gaston, a Woodfords resident, who was representing the U.S. Forest Service at the session, said it’s important not to overreact to the presence of a mountain lion.

“Mountain lions have been in existence in these parts before people were here,” she said. “It’s important to keep this in perspective. Usually when there is an attack it is a juvenile. But I’m definitely concerned seeing this in our community.”

Mountain lions that attack humans are tracked and killed.

“There are thousands of mountain lions and attacks are relatively rare,” Gaston said.

According to the California Department of Fish & Game, there have only been three fatal attacks in California on humans in the last 13 years. There have been 13 mountain lion attacks in California over the past 21 years, the most recent on a 70-year-old man in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County.

There are an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in the state. During 2002 13 lions were killed because they are a menace to public safety.

Mountain lions chief prey are deer and they tend to be very shy, according to fish and game’s Web site.

But the department is getting more reports of lions preying on pets and lifestock.

Living in mountain lion country

— Don’t feed deer; it is illegal in California and it will attract mountain lions.

— Deer-proof your landscaping by avoiding plants that deer like to eat.

— Trim brush to reduce hiding places for mountain lions.

— Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.

— Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.

— Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats, and other vulnerable animals.

— Don’t allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active-dawn, dusk, and at night.

— Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums and other potential mountain lion prey.

While on foot in mountain lion country

— Do not hike, bike, or jog alone.

— Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active-dawn, dusk, and at night.

— Keep a close watch on small children.

— Do not approach a mountain lion.

— If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.

— If attacked, fight back.

— If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.