Tracker investigates mountain lion trail

RANCHO SANTA FE — The sighting of a mountain lion in the village of Rancho Santa Fe was still on the minds of Association members at its Oct. 7 meeting.
“Any word on the mountain lion?” asked Deb Plummer, board member.
Administrator Ivan Holler said he and Chief Matt Wellhouser of the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol called UC Davis, who sent a tracker to determine if there had indeed been a mountain lion in the area.
“We went out on one of the trails and he did ID prints of what he said was a mountain lion,” Holler said. ”He seemed very competent to know what he was talking about.”
He said the UC Davis program puts a collar on the big cats and tracks their movement. They have a very large territory and relocating them away from civilization may put them into another cat’s territory.
“UC Davis is strictly research of their habitats and tracks,” Wellhouser said.
He said one mountain lion can roam from Orange County to San Diego County.
“Coyote and deer are their food source,” he said.
The mountain lions are state and federally protected.
“If you eliminate a mountain lion, you have to pull special permits,” he said.
Living in mountain lion country is a “good/bad thing,” he said.
“We are home to all kinds of critters — everything they like (to eat),” Wellhouser said.
Mountain lion sightings have been reported three times recently on both Sept. 22 and Sept. 28 by a newspaper delivery man in the early morning hours.
The sightings on Sept. 22 were at 3:45 a.m. in the area of the Rancho Santa Fe Library and at 8:30 a.m. in the area of San Elijo Lagoon Trail west of El Camino Real near La Orilla. The Sept. 28 sighting was at 1:35 a.m. behind a home on a trail in the 17500 block of Los Morros.
Wellhouser said mountain lions may be more visible now because the fires in 2007 burned off some of their habitat or the recent sightings could be a youngster establishing its own territory.
He said the cats are most active at night, at dusk and dawn, so watch children closely at these times as well as pets. Don’t leave pet food outside, which might attract them.
“If you do encounter one, make noise, make yourself big. Don’t run. They are like house cats, they will chase you,” he said.
Plummer suggested that joggers carry with them pocket-sized air horns.
For more information, visit www.keepmewild.org.
If you should see a mountain lion, you are encouraged to call Fish and Game at (858) 467-4257. If the animal is a threat, call 911.

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