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Jogger oblivious to crouching lion

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Video still by Katrina Schmidt

In this still from a viral video, a mountain lion peers from behind a bush at a passing jogger on Eucalyptus Street in Ojai on Sept. 10.

 

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter

Exceptionally dry conditions are pushing more and more wild animals, including mountain lions, into urban residential neighborhoods in California, according to wildlife experts.

 

Christine Rose, who lives on West Eucalyptus Street in Ojai, had a close encounter with a mountain lion Sept. 4 at approximately 10 p.m.

Rose went to bring her cat inside for the evening and looked out to see a much larger feline looking right back at her. “I turned on my front porch light and there was a very large mountain lion at the base of our driveway,” she said.

The big cat’s reaction — or lack of it — surprised Rose. “Instead of getting scared at my sight, which I thought he should have, he took a couple steps toward me and actually started coming toward my front door, turned his body and stared right at me,” she said.

Rose described her roughly 30-second standoff with the mountain lion as “eerie.”

“I finally just opened my front door a crack and started screaming really loud and scared him off,” she said.

Almost one week later, on Sept. 10, and in broad daylight, Rose’s next-door neighbor, Katrina Schmidt, caught video of a mountain lion on her home security camera.

In the video, which went viral, the animal appears in Schmidt’s front yard and hides behind a bush as a person jogs past, “crouching, looking like it was maybe going to pounce on that jogger,” Rose said.

Watch the video on the Ojai Valley Facebook page here: https://fb.watch/84GnWFfXf5/

Following a mountain lion sighting reported Aug. 23 only a few blocks away, in the 700 block of North Ventura Street, residents are wondering if the same cat is involved. “We’re pretty sure it’s living in our neighborhood,” Rose said.

According to local wildlife experts, there’s been an uptick in the number of wild animals encroaching on neighborhoods and even into back yards.

“They’ve become increasingly bold. We think this is due to the drought,” said Randy Friedman, marketing manager with Ventura County Animal Services, which contracts with the city of Ojai for animal control services.

In the hills where wild animals live, food and water are in short supply, Friedman said. “Because of the drought, a lot of the small animals they typically prey on as part of the food cycle have moved down into more residential, urban areas to look for food and water,” he told the Ojai Valley News.

Once the smaller critters move, the predators move to follow their food source, said Friedman.

Ventura County Animal Services is not allowed to come out and relocate wildlife, unless the animal is sick or injured, Friedman said, so property owners need to take proactive steps to discourage mountain lions.

Residents should keep pets indoors and eliminate attractive features in their yard, Friedman advised. “Make sure there’s no food or water or trash around their property,” he said.

Highly nutritious food such as cat food attracts smaller wildlife like raccoons, which then attract the larger predators.

Fruit that’s fallen from a tree can attract wildlife, Friedman added.

Make sure trash can lids are on tightly and trash is bagged inside of the can, he advised.

Residents should even consider removing water from bird baths. “Animals can smell water, and if there’s no water in the hills and they come down and they smell the water in your fountain, they’re going to come drink,” Friedman said.

What should you do if you encounter a mountain lion?

“The first thing to do is to stay calm,” Friedman said, and never, ever, turn and run away from the cat.

If you have kids or pets with you, pick them up. “Not just for their safety, but it makes you look larger. It makes you look more intimidating,” said Friedman. Wave your arms and make noise, like Christine Rose did when she screamed at the cat Sept. 4. Carry a whistle or try jingling your keys. “It’s a sound they’re not familiar with and they’re not going to take a chance and try to come after you,” Friedman said.

Given the parched conditions resulting from the ever-worsening drought in the Golden State, the increase in mountain lion, bear and coyote sightings comes as no shock, according to experts.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Friedman said. “We’re going to continue seeing wildlife coming into areas where in the past they really haven’t ventured.” 

 

 

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