By Wayne Sherman
Recent work by county Flood Control in Alamo Pintado Creek at the Santa Inés Mission Mills has made the channel look like a forgotten country lane in the Deep South. Removal of all the flotsam and jetsam from the recent rains has made it possible to walk along the creek bed in the cool shade and enjoy the wonders of nature sans sunburn. As inviting and bucolic as it may appear, due to a recent sighting of a California Mountain Lion in the area, it is wise to remember that wild means wild and one should take some precautions while enjoying the outdoors.
According to a pamphlet provided by the California Department of Fish and Game Mountain Lions usually hunt alone at night. They usually ambush their prey from behind and kill with a powerful bite to the base of the skull. They prey mostly upon deer, sheep and elk but can survive on smaller animals as well.
As recently as January of 2010 a man was attacked just outside his house on San Marcos Pass. The 6’4” man was able to run the lion off but not before being knocked to the ground and having his cat killed.
Mountain lions are quiet and elusive and prefer to keep it that way if given the chance. But what if we surprise one on our leisurely walk in the cool shade of the creek bed or upon a hike in the mountains? What can one do to minimize the chance of attack? Here are the suggestions provided by the Department of Fish and Game.
1) Do not hike alone. As this cannot always be done I suggest, at least, carry a walking stick or staff to defend your self with. One hiker at the Mills always carries a golf club.
2) Keep children close to you. Mountain Lions are especially drawn to small children and not in a good way. Keep them within your sight at all times.
3) Do not approach a lion. They usually want to avoid confrontation and will run if you give them room to escape.
4) Do not run from a lion. Running can stimulate the lion’s instinct to chase. Stand and face the animal and make eye contact. Pick up small children so they don’t run but do this without crouching.
5) Do not crouch or bend over. It is believed that crouching makes one appear as prey to the animal and increases the likelihood of attack.
6) Do all you can to appear larger. Open your jacket, wave your arms slowly, speak firm and loudly. If you can without crouching or turning your back throw a rock or stick.
If none of the above has worked and you are attacked. Keep standing and facing the animal if possible and Fight back with everything and anything at your disposal.
There, I hope this information will make you more aware next time you venture into the great outdoors. Now that I have scared the daylights out of everyone; who wants to go for a hike?
Wayne Sherman is SBTHP’s Santa Inés Mission Mills Steward.