Tracking Your Neighborhood Mountain Lion

06 Sep

This morning I read in the Mercury News that the town of Los Altos Hills activated its emergency alert system over the weekend, phoning residents that a mountain lion was seen in the open space behind Foothill College.

I’m sure the residents of the Emerald Hills area of Redwood City weren’t surprised. They’ve had numerous mountain lion sightings this year, including one closer into town near Sequoia Hospital. There have been so many sightings that the Mercury News now provides an interactive sightings map on their web site.

Are all these sightings a single cat, or are the hills full of them? That’s what scientists at Santa Cruz Puma Trackers are trying to figure out by using sophisticated gps collars to track these big cats. Their research in habitat fragmentation tells interesting stories about the lives of mountain lions.

On their web site, I found maps tracking cats in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains such as a territorial young male in the Boulder Creek area. His range is approximately 20 miles in diameter, from Big Basin to Swanton to Ben Lomand. That’s further than the distance from Emerald Hills to Los Altos Hills.

A neighboring cat is 5 year old female, possibly with cubs. Her range? Almost as large as the young male’s, and clearly overlapping. And there are at least two other cats being actively tracked in this same area.

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After watching videos on their web site, my guess is that the sightings in Emerald Hills are probably multiple cats, and it’s completely possible that the cat in Los Altos Hills is from Emerald Hills. But without a formal program tracking them, we’ll never know how many are out there or where exactly they go.

Does knowing mountain lions are out there affect whether you go out onto the backroads or on the trails? Would you be afraid or excited to see one?

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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Backroads, Dirt Trails


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