Three mountain lion
“incidents” in Jackson Oaks and one in Holiday Lake Estates
since early May have put police and wildlife officials on
Three mountain lion “incidents” in Jackson Oaks and one in Holiday Lake Estates since early May have put police and wildlife officials on alert. They want residents to keep an eye out, too.

Over the weekend officers distributed flyers to homes in the two eastern hillside neighborhoods – prime lion country – so residents will know what to watch for and how to protect children and pets. And they have installed a motion-sensor camera in trees on nearby Circle Lane. To increase chances of the lion showing up on camera they dragged a deer carcass within range.

A full-sized mother lion and cub were seen by a resident in late April along Oak View Circle off Jackson Oaks Drive.

On May 24 another resident on Oak View Circle found a deer carcass behind his house and called the police who came out with the Animal Control officer – and had a surprise.

“They found a den the mother lion made in brush behind his property,” said Morgan Hill Police Lt. Joe Sampson.

On May 25 Mike Phillips from Santa Clara County Vector Control visited the area, discovered paw prints nearby in the mud and had casts made. Sampson said the casts show two lions, one weighing about 100 pounds, the other about 40 pounds. Phillips was involved in the recent incident when an adult lion strayed into a Palo Alto residential area and was killed by police.

On May 26 a resident of Holiday Lake Estates called to report that her car almost struck a full-grown lion at the far end of Holiday Drive. Sampson said they did not know if it was the same lion since Holiday Drive and Oak View Circle are quite a distance apart.

Every sighting was between 6-8 a.m. instead of during nighttime hours when the nocturnal animals normally hunt.

Sampson said, according to state wildlife and vector control people, the reason there have been so many lion visits lately is because the lush rainy season draws the deer down from Coe State Park and the lions follow the deer, which they consider prime food.

“A more interesting question is why these normally nocturnal animals are appearing in daylight,” Sampson said.

He said the current explanation has to do with light.

“Lights from homes and cars throw off the animals’ biocycle,” Sampson said. “They come out when they think it’s best for them.”

Sampson said flyers on coyote behavior, damage, disease and control were also distributed to residents of Morgan Hill’s eastern hills because a coyote has been seen preying on smaller animals in the area.

“This coyote has been very aggressive to pets,” Sampson said.

Veterinarian John Quick, who lives in the area said Monday that he saw a lion take down a deer in March and that neighbors have seen three more deer killed within a 500-yard radius of his house. He said the deer don’t seem to want to cross major streets.

“We’ve seen scat as close as 20 feet to us,” Quick said, “but the lions have only been seen south of Dunne and west of Jackson Oaks (Drive).”

The young lion estimated to weigh 40 pounds is 20 pounds lighter than the three cubs discovered in a residential back yard near Llagas and Hale avenues, northwest of town and near the western hills in late March. One was tranquilized and released in the hills, one escaped and was killed by a passing vehicle and the third was shot and killed by police when it tried to enter a house.

Police also are urging residents in the western foothills to take precautions.

Quick said he is keeping his champion setters and three Shelties close to home but has lost a “very friendly cat” who, he said, was most likely taken by the lion.

In the past animal control officers tried to relocate lions when they strayed into areas dangerous to them and to the public but, Quick said, this is changing.

“The state no longer pays for relocation,” Quick said, “because they’ve only had a 10 percent success rate. Lions need a safe zone of their own.”

Relocated lions are often either killed by the dominant male in the area or are hit by cars.

“A lion’s area can have a range of 100 square miles,” Quick said, “though they can overlap.”

Gilroy has had its own recent mountain lion sightings recently when a city employee spotted a large cat near Uvas Creek west of Santa Teresa Boulevard in late April.

The area includes several trails frequented by walkers and joggers. The city worker was checking a sewer line in the area when the mountain lion appeared; the man remained in his truck until the cat left.

The sighting comes on the heels of several incidents where lions were spotted at Bonfante Gardens, also in April, according to Henry Coletto, a wildlife deputy with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department. Soon after employees spotted the large cat, they also found a dead fawn on the park’s grounds.

Sampson encouraged residents to watch for the cats and follow the rules if one is spotted.

“Don’t run, look large, make eye contact and don’t hike alone,” Sampson said. “And call us right away.”

To report mountain lions: Morgan Hill Police Department, 779-2101

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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