Think mountain lions don’t live in the city? These ones do.
On February 22, Micaiah Atkins, an 18-year-old high school student, was eating breakfast at her Archer Drive residence when she spotted a large male mountain lion in the backyard. After calling her sister and parents into the room, she was able to snap some quick photos and take a short video of the huge cat.
Micaiah’s mother, Elise Atkins said, “We were just so excited. It was fascinating to see a mountain lion so close, but also scary since I had just gotten back from my morning walk.”
This was the third sighting of mountain lions in the Santa Cruz area in just a month. While none of the cats have been aggressive towards humans, their presence has led Fish and Wildlife officials to warn Santa Cruz residents not to leave pets or pet food out at the mountain lions’ peak activity times, dawn, dusk, and overnight.
Other mountain lion sightings include a female captured by Fish and Wildlife officials near Escalona Drive on February 20 and a cat seen crossing the road near Delaveaga Park on February 6.
According to leaders of UCSC’s Puma Project, mountain lions are most likely coming to the area to feed on the abundant deer herd, but the cats seem to be getting more brazen in their behavior, moving during daylight and out in the open.
Puma Project coordinator Paul Houghtaling said of the Atkins’ sighting, “It’s not wilderness. It’s right next to a road and people going in and out of the university. It definitely caught my attention.”
When asked about the sudden influx in mountain lions in the Santa Cruz area, Houghtaling said, “I would guess they were just looking for food and found a place that works.”
As urban sprawl, protection for predators, and a non-hunting community view continue to spread across the country, encounters with predators like mountain lions will likely become more common. Using common sense will help keep you and your family safe in the ever-changing world of predator/human relationships.