Meetings planned on mountain lion sightings

October 7, 2008 2:10:43 PM PDT
The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office will host two public meetings this month to answer residents' questions about a series of recent mountain lion sightings.

Meetings will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Portola Valley Town Hall and Oct. 21 at the Independence Hall in Woodside, sheriff's office spokesman Tom Merson said.

Merson said there have been about eight mountain lion sightings, from San Bruno Mountain to the Portola Valley area, in recent months.

"The mountain lions have lived in these mountains since before we lived here, but for some reason, at least in the last couple of months, there seem to be more sightings," Merson said.

The sheriff's office has not determined how many sightings are legitimate; Merson said some people may have mistaken bobcats for mountain lions.

Nevertheless, the sheriff's office will host the meetings so residents can have their questions answered by sheriff's and fish and game officials.

Merson said that while instances of mountain lions attacking people are rare - fewer than 20 cases have been reported in the state since 1890 - people who see the animals are encouraged to make noise, appear as large as possible and never turn their backs.

Residents should stand up tall, fluff out their coats, and even throw objects at mountain lions while never breaking eye contact, Merson said. Backing away slowly is an option, but only while maintaining eye contact, he added.

"Don't turn your back to the lion," Merson said. "Lions tend to attack from the rear."

Fighting back if attacked may also help, as mountain lions tend to avoid confrontation, according to Merson.

Merson said he anticipates additional sightings. Anyone who spots a mountain lion can call the sheriff's office or 911.

"Generally mountain lions live in hills and there isn't much that can be done, unless the lion is an actual threat to human safety by being in a populated area," he said.

Tonight's public meeting will be held at Portola Valley Town Hall, 765 Portola Road. The Oct. 21 meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Independence Hall, 2955 Woodside Road, in Woodside.


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