The terms wildlife and Los Angeles together conjure up images of bad boy rappers going HAM (Hard As A Mother$%&@) at L ‘Ermitage, not mountain lions prowling Sunset Boulevard.
That’s why the warning signs posted around nearby Coldwater Canyon Park, which show a photo of a well-fed tawny Felis concolor stretched out in the snow on a rocky outcropping, caught my attention. First of all, since records were first kept in 1921, snow has only fallen on Los Angeles ten times – and not a single instance since 1962. Second of all, the sign declared the animal as “aggressive” and if seen, one should dial 9-1-1.
Dialing for help is preferable over bolting when it comes to mountain lions. They can mistake a fleeing person as a prey animal and the last thing I want to do is confuse a cougar into thinking that I am a deer. What about all those healthy runners who might not even realize that their otherwise healthy hobby is a bit like offering a cougar an appetite stimulator?
Over the years, especially during drought, residents have seen our share of raccoons, coyotes and possums. None of these critters licks its chops at the sight of humans. Neither do mountain lions particularly, so what’s changed? Should I be worried?
According to the LA Animal Services, mountain lions are thriving in California. There are anywhere from 100s to 10,000 of them. No, that was not a type-o, that’s as exact as they can get at the moment. It occurred to me that wildlife habitats are being invaded by off road biking, hiking, rock climbing, and construction work so perhaps that was the reason the feline has been seen looking pissed off.
Maybe. Maybe not. Californians passed Prop 117 in 1990, which created a Habitat Conservation Fund and guaranteed it funding of $30 million a year for 30 years in order to “acquire, enhance, or restore” specified types of lands for wildlife or open space.” Where mountain lions are concerned, they are a protected species and no one can kill them “unless for the protection of life, livestock or other property.”
I’ve got a call into Wildlife Officer Gregory Randall to find out just how likely we residents are in tangling with a mountain lion. Personally, I’m hoping the irritable cat will head back to that rocky outcropping I saw in the warning photo. If not, hopefully my American Bulldog can scare it off with one of her loud barks.
In the meantime, if you do happen to see an up to eight-foot long mountain lion, let the wildlife authorities know. They can be reached at 888-452-7381.