Elusive big cats are lurking around CA neighborhood, photos show. People are alarmed

Felines much bigger than your average neighborhood cat were spotted strolling through a California suburb, alarming residents, officials said.

First, a mountain lion showed up in a San Mateo neighborhood about 20 miles southeast of San Francisco on Friday, Aug. 18.

Officers searched the area but didn’t find the mountain lion, the police department said on Twitter, rebranded as X.

Then two days later, another big cat was spotted roaming through a backyard and then a parking lot on Kingridge Drive, officials said.

Police originally thought it was another mountain lion, but this one turned out to be a bobcat.

“Still a very large cat walking the neighborhood, which caused alarm,” officials said. “Apparently, bobcats aren’t as aggressive as mountain lions and are smaller with shorter tails, but we still wouldn’t want to cross paths with one.”

It isn’t the first time big cats have been spotted in the neighborhood. In April 2022, a pair of mountain lions frequented the Kingridge Drive community so often, San Mateo city officials told residents they should expect to see more of them, McClatchy News previously reported.

“Watch out for small pets and children, avoid feeding deer, and never approach a mountain lion,” San Mateo police said on Twitter at the time.

It’s rare for a mountain lion to attack a human.

“Statistically speaking a person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion,” the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said on its website. “Since 1890, there have been less than 50 verified mountain lion attacks on humans in California; of that, only six have been fatal.”

Most of the time the attack victim is alone, officials said. People shouldn’t hike or bike alone when mountain lions are most active at dawn, dusk and at night, McClatchy News reported.

Fish and Wildlife said people can discourage mountain lions from coming around their homes by trimming back brush to reduce hiding places, installing motion-detecting lights, keeping sheep, goats, and other livestock sheltered, and not letting pets outside on their own at dawn, dusk or at night, McClatchy News reported. Residents should also bring pet food inside to avoid attracting the animals mountain lions prey on to their home.

What to do if you see a mountain lion

Mountain lions are typically “calm, quiet and elusive,” according to the National Park Service. While attacks involving mountain lions are rare, they are possible.

“Even so, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards,” the National Park Service said on its website. “There is a far greater risk, for example, of being killed in an automobile accident with a deer than of being attacked by a mountain lion.”

Officials said there are some things you do take to prevent a mountain lion encounter from becoming an attack.

  • Stay calm and back away slowly.

  • Face the lion and stand up straight.

  • Don’t approach a mountain lion, especially if it’s with kittens.

  • Don’t run. It could stimulate a mountain lion’s chase instincts.

  • Pick up small children so they don’t panic or run away.

  • Don’t bend over or crouch down.

  • Throw things at the mountain lion if it continues to move toward you.

  • If the mountain lion attacks, fight back using anything around you.

  • Report all sightings, encounters or attacks to local park rangers or law enforcement.

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