Cameras Capturing Resident Neighborhood Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion (CDFW photo)

Mountain lions are now secretly living in and around many California neighborhoods where residents’ security cameras and trail cams frequently capture their images (CDFW photo of California mountain lion).

Question: I live in Kern County and last December caught a mountain lion on our security camera. Then, last night about 6:45 pm I saw it walking on the road in front of my home with a cat in its mouth. This is a new experience for me and my research indicates that there is no reason for concern, except to notify neighbors with pets. Can you please give me some guidance on whether I should do anything with this information? (Steve D.)

Answer: These security cameras that people and businesses are installing as well as trail cams are creating quite a buzz about lions. People are now getting the opportunity to realize what lion researchers have recently come to understand, which is that lions live around people more than we think.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Senior Environmental Scientist and mountain lion expert Marc Kenyon, we once thought that mountain lions resided solely in the mountains (hence their moniker), but it turns out they have been living all around us. With that in mind, we’ve also come to realize that mountain lions don’t present quite the level of danger that we used to think.

And you’re absolutely correct. Probably the best way to manage this situation is to simply warn neighbors about the presence of a lion. And if you visit our Keep Me Wild web page (www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html) you can learn how to live and recreate safely among these magnificent creatures.

However, there is always a chance that these animals, like all wild animals, could pose a threat to public safety. Although the risk is extremely small, it still exists and we don’t take it lightly. In addition to following the advice on the Keep Me Wild web page, please be sure to call 911 or your local police if you or your neighbors witness a lion exhibiting any threatening behavior. The local police can typically respond much faster than we can, however they will be in direct contact with us until we can arrive if our presence is necessary.

Such potentially threatening behaviors include:

  • Following people closely and secretively
  • Intently watching children
  • Twitching tail
  • Stomping front or hind feet
  • Approaching people with ears pinned back and hissing
  • On the ground and refusing to flee when you are shouting at them aggressively and/or blowing a whistle

Also, a mountain lion in a tree or crouching in some vegetation near a trail or a residence doesn’t always reflect a dangerous situation unless some of the behaviors listed above are also noted. More often than not, that mountain lion is simply trying to hide until people pass, and it may even feel threatened by the people who are watching it.


Alternate length measurements
Question: For kelp bass, barred sand bass and spotted sand bass, the marine sport fishing regulations state that the size limit is 14 inches total length or ten inches alternate length. What is the difference between total and alternate length? (Tom R.)

Answer: Total length is the longest straight-line measurement from the tip of the head to the end of the longest lobe of the tail. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. Alternate length is the straight-line distance from the base of the foremost spine of the first dorsal fin to the end of the longest lobe of the tail (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 1.62).


Verifying it’s a tom turkey
Question: I know that only tom turkeys may be legally harvested during the spring turkey season, so how do I prove this if questioned? Should I leave a wing or the beard or both on the bird? Please clarify. (Anonymous)

Answer: The regulations are intended to require that only tom turkeys may be taken during the spring season, but the law specifically states that the turkey must be “bearded” (a bearded turkey is one having a beard visible through the breast feathers). In most cases a beard will distinguish the animal as male, but in some rare incidents hens may also have them.

Keep the beard attached to the carcass until you return to your residence. You may pluck the bird in the field, but remember to keep the beard connected to the body.

Toms and hens can be easily determined by their significant head and wing color differences. If by chance you run across a rare bearded hen, even though the provisions of the law may allow you to take it, we strongly discourage it. Spring is the turkeys’ primary mating and nesting period so hens may not be harvested in order to protect their production.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.

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