By Shaun Bishop
Article Last Updated: 10/14/2008 08:27:12 PM PDT
State officials called off the search for a mountain lion hit and reportedly injured by a sport utility vehicle on Highway 92 on Tuesday morning after a game warden could not find it.
The car struck the large cat at about 7:30 a.m. just west of where the highway crosses Crystal Springs Reservoir, according to the San Mateo County sheriff’s department.
A sheriff’s deputy who responded saw the lion stand up and limp off the road into thick vegetation near Skyline Boulevard, said Lt. Ray Lunny.
The deputy, a former Wyoming resident who is familiar with mountain lions, thought the animal may have suffered a broken leg or hip, Lunny said.
The state Department of Fish and Game then sent a warden out to look for the mountain lion, estimated to weigh 85 pounds, but he did not find the animal and called off the search, said spokesman Kyle Orr.
“It just wasn’t an area that availed itself to an easy search,” Orr said.
Contrary to early reports from the sheriff’s department, Orr said state officials do not consider the mountain lion a threat to the public because it was “essentially a mountain lion being a mountain lion” in its habitat.
He said there “would have been a more substantial attempt to track it” if the cat had shown aggressive or threatening behavior such as stalking.
In this case, though, he said the animal still may have been put down if the warden had found it and determined it was suffering.
“Certainly, were a warden to find an animal in distress, the warden would have the option to euthanize the animal if that’s the humane thing to do,” Orr said. “We don’t know, frankly, what the full extent of the injuries were.”
At least nine sightings of mountain lions have been reported in central or southern San Mateo County in recent weeks, said Tom Merson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. Residents have reported seeing the cats near San Bruno Mountain, Woodside, Portola Valley and San Mateo.
Orr said mountain lion sightings sometimes beget other sightings, either because of heightened awareness or people believing they saw something they didn’t.
Still, he said, encounters between mountain lions and humans are relatively infrequent, even though California’s 4,000 to 6,000 big cats roam more than half the state. Attacks are even rarer, with only 14 verified attacks on humans since 1890.
The sheriff’s office will hold a community meeting to discuss the mountain lion sightings and what they mean at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at Independence Hall, at the intersection of Woodside and Whiskey roads, in Woodside.
MOUNTAIN LION TIPS
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department recommends residents take practical steps to stay safe when they are in mountain lion habitat:
– Don’t hike or bike alone
– Keep children and pets close by
If you see a mountain lion:
– Do not run
– Do not turn your back
– Make noise and appear as large as possible
– Open your coat if you have one
– Raise your arms
– Throw objects at the animal
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org