Mountain lion attacks man in Foothills Park Crimes & Incidents, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jul 13, 2008 at 7:48 pm
A 50-year-old man hiking alone in Foothills Park on Saturday was knocked down from behind by a mountain lion, tumbled down a 15-foot slope and struck a tree. He then saw the mountain lion tumble down the same slope and into Los Trancos Creek.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, July 13, 2008, 7:08 PM
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 13, 2008 at 7:48 pm
If they track and kill this young lion, I will be very angry. We live near the park and mountain lions are part of the deal, living out here. This is their home. There is no lack of food for these predators, as deer are everywhere. So many deer, and lots of babies this year (many sets of twins). The deer are in the roads at night, they're attacking gardens and orchards. We need predators to control the deer population. This young lion who "misjudged his prey" has learned a lesson and will most likely focus on deer from here out. Give the guy a chance.
Posted by Gardner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2008 at 8:17 pm
Although I agreed with the decision to shoot the lion in town a few years ago-- and took a few arrows for it -- I agree with Helen. According to this article, no one was badly hurt and it was in it's own environment. I hop they don't kill it.
Posted by Suzy, a resident of another community, on Jul 13, 2008 at 8:18 pm
I will never understand the need to go after these animals when they attack. It happens everywhere to all kinds of animals whether it's a crocodile or shark or mountain lion and I just don't get it. Leave them alone.
Posted by Cecilia, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jul 13, 2008 at 10:14 pm
I agree with the comments. First, we all know that it is mountain lion territory. Second, they have a role in the ecosystem and we need to respect and protect them because of that. Third, no one got hurt. Fourth, after I saw this on Channel 2 there were two stories about shootings that took place today - just today - in some areas of the bay area, which helped put it in context. It is still extremely unlikely to be attached by a mountain lion vs. being shot, for instance!! Let's urge the city to leave the mountain lion alone and do educational outreach with the community to learn more about these wonderful animals and why we need them to help control other wildlife. The answer is not to kill them. Also, maybe this person was just walking, but I have seen lots of joggers in the area, who hardly are in tune with what is around them because of their I-pods... they look like prey and they should not be doing this. We should educate people about how to be safe in mountain lion territory so that we help ourselves AND, our neighbors, the mountain lions.
Posted by Jon, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2008 at 10:34 pm
The mountain lion is a keystone species Web Link . This incident was tragic, but thankfully nobody was seriously hurt. It is important for us to have respect for wildlife, and understand the importance of this animal in our ecosystem.
Btw, let me put a good word in for Paly High's AP Environmental Science (APES) class. It may sound like a BS AP to some students, but you learn an incredible amount about the world you live in, and subjects like the mountain lion issue has been brought up in class. APES, like Econ, taught us how the world is connected to these subjects every day. Turn on KCBS or NPR's Marketplace or watch MSNBC's Your Planet after a lesson and suddenly a lot of what is happening in the world makes sense and you have a heightened awareness for these things.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of another community, on Jul 13, 2008 at 10:40 pm
The mountain lion ATTACKED the man. What the lion learned was that adults are too big and will try a child next. You people are worried about the lion when you shoud be worried about your children's safety.
Posted by KT, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2008 at 10:54 pm
I agree that the mountain lion should not be shot, but I understand your worry Kevin. But what kid is small enough go to the foothills park without an adult? I would say to keep a close eye on your kids just as if you would if this guy hadn't been attacked. Just like you should keep an eye on your kids no matter where you go.
I agree that it is (obviously) twice as likely to get robbed and shot in this town then it is to get attacked by a mountain lion.
This is our world. If we can just shoot the mountain lion, can we shoot the criminals too because they can both take lives?
Posted by Sam, a resident of another community, on Jul 13, 2008 at 11:58 pm
The lion has got to go. Since the cougar was unharmed, the only lesson it learned was how not to take down a peson. It also may believe that killing a person is not particularly dangerous to itself. Let's be reasonable. California Cougars are not endangered. We have them in our foothills here in Half Moon Bay. In fact, my wife was confronted by an adult cougar a few years ago and luckily escaped without being attacked.
Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 14, 2008 at 12:08 am Nora Charles is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I will be sickened if this mountain lion is murdered. They are not in our backyards; we are in their living rooms and it's getting worse with endless building and encroachment on THEIR territory. Better that parks be closed, or warnings posting that hikers enter at their own risk. If anything children will learn respect for animals, not the lesson that they are here to be hunted down and killed. I pray this creature is not found.
Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jul 14, 2008 at 12:51 am
To read all of these posts in defense of this mountain lion disgusts me. This creature has now demonstrated that it will go after a human, a 6 foot male at that. It has no fear. It will easily take down a child or small woman next. It would not matter if that child or woman was part of a group; much as in the wild, it will wait for a moment of separation to kill. Closing the park is pointless. Do you people have such bad memories to forget that mountain lions were spotted on the Stanford campus and in downtown Palo Alto last year. What will it take for you clueless people to realize that this animal is a threat to humans and needs to be dealt with? How will you protect people in your fantasy world?
Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 3:47 am
I suggest those who defend the lion offer their own children up to their madness. The least human is of more value than the finest animal. A few years ago, a woman sighted a lion near El Carmelo, the school two of my children had attended. The woman waited a half hour to report the sighting to give the lion a chance to get away. I believe that woman, and those here defending the lion, are mad.
Posted by rob, a resident of another community, on Jul 14, 2008 at 4:43 am
Wildlife biologists study and understand cats. They have been studying them for a long time. Cats are smart and have a good memory, they learn. That's why a cat needs to be put down. Cats will also attack a member of a group, usually the smallest. The advantage of not going alone is that others can fight off the attack.
People and lions have occupied the same habitat in the Americas for 18,000 years. The only difference now is that we've stopped hunting them.
You have cats because you have deer. Cats live on deer. Probably you have excess deer because of landscaping, irrigated lawns, and lack of hunting by humans. The cat population is probably not restricted by deer but by territory, so the deer can't be kept in check by predation.
Comparing relative safety is not relevant. Apples and oranges. Why not compare to car accidents? Better yet to hospital deaths. Hospitals must be the most dangerous places in the world, look how many die there.
Until molycodled yuppies learn about the real world, kids, joggers, and bikers are going to be at risk.
Posted by very sad initial posts, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 7:07 am
Whew! I just found this story and reading through the first 5 or so posts I started to get very worried that we have crossed over the edge into complete insanity.
Let's see, on the one hand we have an animal who as attacked a full grown man from behind with no provocation : on the other we have all the humans, including teens and young teens, who roam the park and relax...
Gosh, let's give the animal a second chance and risk the life of a human!
I couldn't believe the posts, and am very happy to see there are still rational people left. Those who are irrational, please feel free to send your kids out on hikes in Foothill Park before the lion is found.
Those who want to let the lion live...how about confining the poor thing in a zoo the rest of its days? ( Now THAT would be cruel).
Posted by natural order, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 7:57 am
San Francisco Chronicle reported in this morning's paper that Palo Alto hired the tracker hired to hunt and kill the young mountain lion. Mountain lions kill deer, and there are too many deer the past few years. Cougars are very territorial and are not likely to survive when transported to another territory.
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 8:27 am
The problem is there are too few deer in the mountains that is why mountain lions are coming down into Foothill Park. Friends of mine who live in Los Altos Hills tell me that they rarely see deer now whereas 20 years ago they were everywhere.
This is probably a young mountain lion recently separated from it's Mother seeking out a territory.
Posted by Joe, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 8:34 am
To: Regular Foothill Park Walker.
The difference is that the mountain lion in Gilroy did not attack anyone. The standard practice in wildlife management (and has been for years) is to kill any large predator that attacks a human, knowing that there's a good chance that the same animal will attack again. Of course, people in Palo Alto naively think that they know better...
Posted by M, a resident of Portola Valley, on Jul 14, 2008 at 9:31 am
Interesting but not surprising responses. I too hate to see the lion be killed, but for heaven's sake the thing tried to kill someone, and the only reason it didn't was ostensibly because prey and predator went tumbling down a hill. Does anyone need more reason? If a human tried to do the same thing, we'd have that person's hide in a second. I guess it's different for animals. Sigh. Well if the public opinion wins on this one, then I guess I'd be OK with it if I were allowed to pack heat on hikes and runs. All this talk about us being in their habitat is true, but if we're not going to do something about a dangerous situation, then any rational human might want to take measures to protect themselves when out in lion territory. I mean, I have kids and we like to hike. Maybe the ecoterrorists will just tell us to stay out of the wilderness altogether.
Posted by BB, a resident of another community, on Jul 14, 2008 at 9:50 am
"Mountain Lions were here first!!"
Yeah? So? So were fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and the Smallpox virus. The latter has already been permanently eliminated, perhaps the others mentioned in the future. Although I don't suggest this solution for the mountain lion, specific pesky indivual animals need to be eliminated.
"Why are they planning to kill the Mountain Lion?"
Posted by Don G., a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 10:04 am
I was also alarmed at the first 10 or so posts in favor of the mountain lion. I'm glad to see some sense from residents who favor eliminating this rogue predator.
As someone who had a personal encounter with a mountain lion and reported it immediately when we spotted it in our Community Center neighborhood in 2005, the mountain lion population is not in danger in California. I have hiked the same trail in Foothill park since my mountain lion experience and often keep my eyes and ears open for them. I also hike in groups and keep an eye on the kids.
Also, the notion that people would "hear" the mountain lion if one is near is ludicrous. That guy was very lucky he didn't fall with the mountain lion and get killed by the fall or the cat. There are several steep drop-offs on that trail and If the early posters had their way, they'd install railings and/or close the park to all but mountain lions.
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 14, 2008 at 10:30 am
A helicopter has been circling over the park (and my house) for the past hour. Great, next I'll be hearing strains of Wagner and will have to run for cover as the yahoos shoot at anything that moves. Finding a mountain lion from the air, based on the report of a guy who was attacked from behind?
Those who say "Kill this lion because it attacked a person" are making several completely unfounded assumptions:
1) that getting rid of this particular lion will make park goers safer. What's the basis for assuming that this lion is somehow different from all the rest, some kind of mutant "man-killer"? Young lions make mistakes, and there are probably plenty of them walking around these days. Killing this one will have absolutely no impact on the future likelihood of attacks.
2) That any lion this tracker finds and kills is actually the one who attacked the man ... what, are they going to ask for his ID before they shoot him?. That is pure Hollywood tripe, and clearly what City of PA is doing here is pure political theatrics. Find and kill a cat, any cat, to prove to the citizens you've done what's necessary to protect them. Right.
Posted by Dean, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 12:14 pm
Interestingly, I was camping there this weekend with a bunch of dads and kids, for our annual Father-Son camping trip, and no rangers came by Towle Camp to let us know what had happened. We stayed Friday and Saturday nights, and never knew about the mountain lion until we returned home and read about it in the paper today.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm
BTW, what would all you mountain lion lovers have said if the lion had successfully attacked the hiker? The lion was just acting on its natural impulses? We interfered with mountain lion rights? The hiker deserved it?
You folks should live in Alaska. They wouldn't have given a second thought to trapping and killing that lion. We have our space, they have theirs.
Posted by faked it?, a resident of Woodside, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:15 pm
Does the guy have any injuries on him that prove he was attacked? Maybe he fell down the hill and made up the story to save face. Cats - any type - don't just go rolling down a hill. They're excellent "fallers".
Posted by Palo Alto Hiker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm
I am waiting for the police to post a press release that tells us which designated trail the victim was hiking on or whether he was in a place that is off limits to hiking.
I am also waiting for any comments from the Portola Valley hiker's hiking companions.
What is unusual about the information that appears in the press is that (1) a general location in Foothills Park is mentioned, unlike other mountain lion sitings where the name of a trail or picnic area is mentioned, and (2) there are no comments from any companions, which indicates the Portola Valley victim was hiking alone on a day when there are rangers at the main gate to enforce the Palo Alto (and guests) residency rule.
Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:34 pm
I agree with Ella. It is probably not sensible to hike in the wilderness with small children. It is never sensible to hike alone at any time, especially in an area which is posted as Mountain Lion Territory. Leave this lion alone and be sensible when visiting these areas.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 1:45 pm
"(2) there are no comments from any companions, which indicates the Portola Valley victim was hiking alone on a day when there are rangers at the main gate to enforce the Palo Alto (and guests) residency rule."
The article in its first line says he was hiking alone. As another posted above, "since 2005 non Palo Alto resident hikers are allowed to enter Foothills Preserve from either Los Trancos Open Space or Enid Pearson Arastradero Preserve." Since this was on the border of Los Trancos, far from the Park entrance, I presume he came from there.
Posted by Observer, a resident of Mountain View, on Jul 14, 2008 at 2:28 pm
I would say that this lion should not be killed by the authorities. All concerned hikers and those who live in the vicinity of the lion who fear their safety may carry either a stout stick or a legal handgun and protect themselves accordingly, when attacked.
Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm
Seriously? Carry a handgun? We are supposed to camp up there this Friday night with 8 adults and 10 kids under the age of 5. We've decided it's just not safe. I guess if I took your advice and each adult had a gun on them the kids would be safe, right? Right.
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 14, 2008 at 3:01 pm
1. Mountain lions are territorial. One mountain lion to a space. Find the guy that inhabits Foothill Park. That is the moutain lion that lives there.
-- Clearly you know nothing about mountain lions. Female lions are not run out of male territories.
2. If more mountain lions attack people, we should kill them also.
-- What is your plan for distinguishing the offending lion from all the others? Or maybe you'd like to kill them all. I lost two beloved pet cats to coyotes, and if I'd caught the beast in the act I would've gladly eviscerated it to save my beloved pet. But since I didn't, would you have me kill every coyote in Los Altos Hills, just to be on the safe side? Great, that's the white man's approach to nature. Kill everything, pave it up, and then we'll be safe ... except, of course, from each other and from our various manufactured sources of death.
3. Maybe you can wander in Foothill park to prove your theory that we haven't made the park safer.
-- Would love to, but not a PA resident. You can go in my stead.
4. You have no realistic alternative to making the park safe. Just another annoying limousine liberal in their abstracted world.
-- See above, about losing cats. My remaining pets are now safe, but not because I killed every coyote on the Peninsula. Because I fenced my yard and supervise my pets when they are outside.
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 3:08 pm
Palo Alto Hiker: It is so easy for residents of Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills to walk into the park. When I lived up there in LAH I walked my dog in the Park nearly every day.
I do agree with Dave though, this Mountain Lion needs an ID tag!! If they kill it, its territory will only be taken over by another Mountain Lion.
Don't hike alone in either Foothill Park or the Arastradero Preserve, other people have seen Mountain Lions there on previous occasions. Also they've been seen in Berne Park and on Black Mountain Road in LAH.
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm
Samuel wrote: "Domestic cats that are allowed outside kill millions of birds and other wildlife every year. Their excrement washes down stream to the ocean and infects otters and other sea creature. If some pet cats are killed by coyotes and that encourages the rest to be kept indoors at all times then that is a GOOD thing
Samuel, I can see that you've visited the Monterey Bay aquarium lately. Their presentation on threats to the Sea Otter should be amended. The disease they refer to is toxoplasmosis, but cats and their excrement are by no means the only source of toxoplasmosis. It is also abundant in human garbage (from meats) which washes down to the ocean from garbage dumps. Nor are pet cats the main problem with songbird populations. It is feral cats which must hunt to live because they've been abandoned by people and allowed to overpopulate by people who do not get their animals neutered.
Samuel, your cruel attempt to turn my family's tragedy (losing our wonderful cats) into some kind of clever talking point is not going to win any hearts or minds.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jul 14, 2008 at 9:15 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
1. Clearly you know nothing about mountain lions. Female lions are not run out of male territories.
Exactly. It was a male that attacked. So find the male and shoot it. Leave the female alone.
2. What is your plan for distinguishing the offending lion from all the others? Or maybe you'd like to kill them all. I lost two beloved pet cats to coyotes, and if I'd caught the beast in the act I would've gladly eviscerated it to save my beloved pet.
Yes, if a wild critter affected your CATS, you'd gladly kill it. But if an anonymous human were hurt or killed, then spare the "cute" mountain lion. So in your value system: your cats>anonymous human. My value system is: all humans>any animal.
3. But since I didn't, would you have me kill every coyote in Los Altos Hills, just to be on the safe side?
Coyotes, not a threat to humans, just pets. Mountain lions=threat to humans, kill them all that come near people or their houses. BTW, I had a cat. I gave it up for the sake of my children.
4. Great, that's the white man's approach to nature. Kill everything, pave it up, and then we'll be safe ... except, of course, from each other and from our various manufactured sources of death.
I love this! Sitting in your home on an acre lot(you live in LAH), you can now sympathize with saving nature. As if your home came neatly packaged from Safeway or Walmart and you had nothing to do
with taking over animal habitats. Face your reality, you took their land, now defend it and everyone else's home around you. We have a right to exist also. We "white man" also preserve animal habitats-- as long as they stay on their property, I'm happy. BTW, I'm not white.
5. Would love to, but not a PA resident. You can go in my stead.
Neither am I. Even if our mountain lion proves to be a hoax, I'm avoiding any forested area around here. Walking to the Dish is ok for me, it's wide open.
6. See above, about losing cats. My remaining pets are now safe, but not because I killed every coyote on the Peninsula. Because I fenced my yard and supervise my pets when they are outside.
One of my fears is that I leave my kids in the backyard, thinking it is safe because it is fenced off, and some mountain lion that should have been shot wanders in and attacks them. We should not live in fear over something like this. Man>pets>wild animals.
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 14, 2008 at 10:31 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
"Exactly. It was a male that attacked. So find the male and shoot it. Leave the female alone."
-- Who says it was a male? You mean to say this guy gets knocked down from the back, tumbles down a 15-foot bank, sees the unbelievable sight of a huge cat tumbling past him, and with all this commotion he is able to sex the animal as it tumbles past?
"That's precious! You could not have given a better response emblematic of a limousine liberal. Yes, if a wild critter affected your CATS, you'd gladly kill it. But if an anonymous human were hurt or killed, then spare the "cute" mountain lion. So in your value system: your cats>anonymous human. My value system is: all humans>any animal."
-- [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] My point was not so much that the cat is cute and fluffy and deserves to frolic in the fields eating people all day, but that kllling some random juvenile lion will not have the desired effect.
"Coyotes, not a threat to humans, just pets. Mountain lions=threat to humans, kill them all that come near people or their houses. BTW, I had a cat. I gave it up for the sake of my children."
-- That's nice.
"I love this! Sitting in your home on an acre lot (you live in LAH), you can now sympathize with saving nature. As if your home came neatly packaged from Safeway or Walmart and you had nothing to do with taking over animal habitats. Face your reality, you took their land, now defend it and everyone else's home around you. We have a right to exist also. We "white man" also preserve animal habitats-- as long as they stay on their property, I'm happy. BTW, I'm not white."
-- Two acres, actually.
"Neither am I. Even if our mountain lion proves to be a hoax, I'm avoiding any forested area around here. Walking to the Dish is ok for me, it's wide open."
-- Sounds good.
"One of my fears is that I leave my kids in the backyard, thinking it is safe because it is fenced off, and some mountain lion that should have been shot wanders in and attacks them. We should not live in fear over something like this. Man>pets>wild animals."
-- Well some folks worry about child molesters, kidnapping, driveby shootings, drugs, trains jumping the tracks, salmonella in tomatoes, autism, nuclear war, and terrorism. Others worry about mountain lions. BTW, do you worry about rattlesnakes at all? They are far more numerous in the hills than mountain lions, are equally deadly (can easily kill a child), and we found a 4-footer in our den one day.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2008 at 11:45 pm
And just how is killing one mountain lion supposed to deter the others? Is there some puma newspaper they all read?
I suggest you educate yourself about feline behavior. Puma attacks are rare. They certainly don't make a habit of coming into fenced yards and attacking children. That one poor lion found in a backyard was taking a nap, not attacking anyone.
Cats kill to eat. They want noncombative, familiar prey--in other words, Bambi. The attacks on humans (all 17 of them in California since 1890.) seem to be mistakes as much as anything.
I'd rather run into a mountain lion than a bear any day.
Posted by alex, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2008 at 7:34 am
No, I'm talking about how the lions will EVOLVE a greater aversion to human contact over many generations.
Yes, this will take time, maybe decades or more, but I'm sure you'll agree that it will mean that fewer lions will be killed in the long run, and we'll be able to have more lions around since they won't be messin' with us as much.
So, take that long term, responsible view, and we'll all be happy.
Posted by JeffK, a resident of another community, on Jul 15, 2008 at 9:23 pm
With regard to Helen's observation - or lack thereof - we wouldn't be having this discussion had the lion attacked a deer. It attacked a man. This 'head in the sand' attitude is going to get someone killed.
Sure you say, let it go. Right. Then it comes into my neighborhood and causes trouble here, all because you didn't step up and do your duty. Or it goes and terroizes someplace else.
Or worse, it comes back and kills someone there. In any case, the blood will be on your hands because you were too cowardly to do the right thing.
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 15, 2008 at 10:54 pm
1. If a mountain lion attacks me, I will kill it. Regardless of what 'Helen' thinks.
Posted by Marty, a resident of Stanford, 4 hours ago
-- Marty, I stated that I would kill any mountain lion I found attacking someone (person or domestic animal). Unfortunately, the PAOnline censors struck that part of my message for some reason. If you read the rest of what I wrote, however, and took some time to think before attacking me, you'd see that my POINT is not about cute/fluffy lions but about what kind of actions have a reasonable likelihood of actually reducing the threat of mountain lions to humans. Killing a random juvenile lion will not help. Killing even the juvenile who 'attacked' is not guaranteed to help, since plenty of other juveniles are left roaming the pathways of FHP.
2. With regard to Helen's observation - or lack thereof - we wouldn't be having this discussion had the lion attacked a deer. It attacked a man. This 'head in the sand' attitude is going to get someone killed. Sure you say, let it go. Right. Then it comes into my neighborhood and causes trouble here, all because you didn't step up and do your duty. Or it goes and terroizes someplace else. Or worse, it comes back and kills someone there. In any case, the blood will be on your hands because you were too cowardly to do the right thing.
-- Where does this anger come from, that causes people to launch insults against other commenters? 'Head in the sand' is rather insulting and not in line with anything I have said.
-- You really think a mountain lion is coming into your neighborhood to get you? Sure, right behind the boogie man and the scarey thing hiding under your bed. How about focusing on the real problems you and your children face in this world? Most of it man-made. Mountain lion is a symbol for something else making you seek a scapegoat. Someone to blame. Talk about 'head in the sand."
-- Killing some random juvenile mountain lion will have zero effect on the future likelihood of lion attacks. Palo Alto has already come to that very conclusion, by declaring that there was no credible evidence of an attack. If they thought there was a tiny chance of danger, they would produce a lion body -- any lion body -- to soothe the monkey frenzy of citizens like you who need to see a dead lion in order to feel safe in their suburban homes. Yes JeffK, you will die someday. But the likelihood of it being by mountain lion is vanishingly small.
Posted by Tom Lindsay, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Jul 16, 2008 at 2:38 am
I wonder if there is another explanation for why this cougar knocked the hiker off the trail. Palo Alto Police Agent Ryan said, “ It was a legitimate attack in which the lion was going to kill the man.” The San Francisco Chronicle article said officials believe the cougar is an adolescent “still learning the finer points of hunting, and that it misjudged the terrain and the size of its quarry”. Palo Alto Online quoted Fish and Game officials who claimed that the cougar “misjudged his prey”.
All this could be true, partially true, or all false. No one will ever know. The thing that is known for sure is that the cougar did not kill the hiker. All of the official speculations above are based on the assumption that the cougar’s intention was to kill the man and did not because both cat and man tumbled down the slope. The fact is, the cougar “scampered away” and left the hiker essentially uninjured, lying, I assume, prostrate and a little stunned pinned against a tree. Not a posture of power and invincibility. It the cougar’s intention was to kill the man, you wonder why it ran off rather than run back.
If the same attack-tumble-over-the-slope scenario would have happened with a deer, I’d bet the cougar would have run back rather than off. Why - because as an overwhelming rule, cougars eat deer- not humans. Cougar’s particularly eat deer that are weak or are in vulnerable positions, like the position the hiker found himself in after sliding down the slope.
Cougars have been described as nature’s perfect predators. They are incredibly powerful, fast, have razor-sharp claws and serious canines. Their preferred method for killing deer is by jumping on the deer’s back, sinking its claws into the shoulders and biting into its neck. Death is swift and efficient.
Surely, a young cougar with less experience is not as accomplished a killer as an older one – hence the Official’s speculation that it was probably a young cougar still trying to get it right. It may have been young, it may have been old. The fact is, to a cougar of any age old enough to hunt on its own, dispatching a slow, human with a relative poor sense of hearing, a completely retarded sense of smell, and no awareness whatsoever that something may eat him is like us shooting fish in a barrel. This cougar could have easily killed this man if it wanted to.
An alternative theory is that the cougar did not kill the man because it decided not to. It could be that the cougar did not make a misjudgment at all about “HIS prey” or “the size of his quarry” or “the terrain”. HIS prey is not human beings. Wild animals, particularly predators, know the terrain of their territory better than most of us know our bathroom. And let’s face it; adult deer make a slight, six-foot human look on the punier side of quarry. Rather than misjudgment, the cougar may have, for any number of reasons, made a mistake of identity. It may have initially thought the hiker was a prey possibility, realized at the last minute the man was not and checked itself - retracted its claws (no claw lacerations on the hiker’s shoulders) and didn’t bite through the hiker’s neck. However the cougar could do little to check the momentum of its leap, which pushed the man and itself off the trail and down the slope.
How might the cougar have made the initial mistake of identity? Again, we’ll never know, but some of the factors that may have contributed could be: How hungry was the cougar? Was the man hiking in a heavily covered area making it difficult for the cougar to visually identify the kind of animal that was making the moving noise – which the hiker surely was? Had the hiker just been bent over tying his shoe, examining something on the trail – looking more four-legged than two? Was the hiker wearing brown, or dark earth-tone colors? And probably most significantly, was the cougar up wind so it couldn't detect the hiker’s human scent. Cougars rely heavily on their nose not only to identify prey but also to identify their prey’s location. Any or all or others not mentioned could have contributed to the initial mistaken identity.
I believe there is a strong possibility that Police Agent Ryan was wrong when he said, “It was a legitimate attack in which the lion was going to kill the man.” I certainly believe Agent Ryan was right when he said “He (the hiker) was very lucky”. But he could have been lucky for exactly the opposite reason. It could be just as likely that the cougar recognized its mistake – that the creature he was lunging at was not his cup of tea - just in the nick of time, aborted its attack and didn’t kill the man.
Every animal, not just human animals, make mistakes. If my theory is right, we should be grateful for the cougar’s recognition and split-second reconsideration of the mistake it was about to make. I sincerely hope we can be as agile and call off the dog, the tracker and particularly his gun in the nick of time.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 16, 2008 at 3:14 am
Helen, I don't really agree with your general logic in this case. Particularly, PA decided not to kill the mountain lion because they didn't think it attacked a person after all; if it had, they would have likely kept trying, and that would be the right thing to do.
But what's interesting is that you chide others for their "anger," but then come right back with insults ("boogie men under the bed," "monkey frenzy," etc.) I think you mistake other people's rhetoric for anger; or perhaps you label them as "angry" to insult them or dismiss the logic of their views.
If you want to raise the tone, argue the facts. If you want to get down and dirty, that's ok too, but recognize that you come across as just as "angry" as your counterpart.
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 16, 2008 at 11:23 am
Tom, that's a great analysis of the situation and a good insight, that the animal did not return to finish off the guy even though it easily could have. I have seen domestic cats check their jumps, and it can lead to just what you describe: ungraceful fall followed by embarassed exit. Also we shouldn't rule out the possibility that the cat was doing what all young cats do: play-attacking. It could have mistakenly believed the man was another cat ... the one he'd just seen on the trail ahead 100 yards in front of the man ... :)
Posted by Helen, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 16, 2008 at 11:40 am
Me too -
1. This sentence of yours is difficult to parse: "Helen, I don't really agree with your general logic in this case. Particularly, PA decided not to kill the mountain lion because they didn't think it attacked a person after all; if it had, they would have likely kept trying, and that would be the right thing to do."
-- What aspect of my general logic do you disagree with?
2. About anger: My very first post on this topic said very clearly "If they kill this lion I'm going to be very angry." So, I owned up to my anger which is specific to a public agency (city of palo alto) and to recent events (city of pa killed a mountain lion in the recent past under controversial circumstances).
The anger from two commenters had none of that specificity or relation to reality. They lobbed strange insults: calling me a "limousine liberal", telling me I clearly "know nothing", saying I don't care if people get killed. That's just projection of some kind of generalized anger since they know nothing about me personally. If I heated up in response to their attacks, it was justifiable self defense.