Berkeley takes unusual approach to mountain lions

October 7, 2010 12:43:44 AM PDT
There's plenty of prey drawing mountain lions to the Berkeley hills and authorities are taking what may seem an unusual approach. Their plan of action is to take no action at all.

Mountain lions have been spotted repeatedly over the past few weeks on land near Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

Freshly posted signs signify there is a mountain lion somewhere near the area, but no one is trying to hunt or trap this animal.

Recently, police shot and killed one near downtown Berkeley, but there was a little uproar over it and it did encourage some residents to push for more understanding.

In one month six animal carcasses were discovered in and around the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab property, likely because the deer have become such easy prey.

"And this is kind of a grainy shot of the two cubs that were on one of the stair cases here," says wildlife biologist Jim Hale as he points to pictures of the mountain lions.

Employees have seen a female and two cubs on the property at least three times. Another sighting on Monday was near the Grizzly Peak neighborhood.

"We're just a little bit scared and not so sure about going out," says Berkeley Hills resident Justin Amaker.

But instead of rushing to kill the mountain lions, lab officials are encouraging employees to cohabitate.

"Our first and foremost priority is public safety. That's what our most important value with this process, however we do want to be sensitive to the ecology and local wildlife," says Lawrence Berkeley National Lab spokesperson Armando Viramontes.

So the lab has signed on Hale to monitor the mountain lions and act as a liaison between the police and the public.

"I'm educating them basically, assuring them that mountain lions are doing what they normally do. They're hunting deer, they're foraging for deer, and they're not hunting humans," says Hale.

Hale's "live and let live" management approach is to allow the mountain lions to sink back into the brush whenever possible. Berkeley Hills resident Phila Rogers says the deer, which eat her flowers, are over populating the area.

"So I'd like to see the lions reduce the deer population," says Rogers.

So without throwing caution to the wind, Hale wants the public to understand that the mountain lions are mostly focused on the deer.

"I think as long as the lions have plenty to eat, which they clearly do, then I don't think they're interested in a sinewy old lady," says Rogers.

Hale, says there will be times when mountain lions will have to be euthanized, but the initial approach right now is to try to live and let live.


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