News

No fines for hiker who cried 'lion'

Portola Valley man sticks to his story

The man whose reported weekend mountain-lion attack in Palo Alto's Foothills Park was found "unsubstantiated" by state officials will not be charged with making a false report, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan said Thursday.

Earlier, police said the Portola Valley resident could have been fined the estimated $10,000 cost of the investigation, if it were determined he had made up his story.

But the hiker "stuck to his guns" in an interview Thursday, insisting he had been attacked, Ryan said.

After consulting with the Santa Clara County district attorney, police decided there was not a strong enough case to charge him, according to Ryan.

The man told officials Sunday he had been hiking the Los Trancos Trail Saturday afternoon when he felt something shove him from behind. He rolled down the hillside, hitting a tree trunk, then saw a mountain lion scamper away, Ryan said.

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But an extensive hunt for evidence or the cat itself Sunday and Monday, as well as a forensic examination of the man's shirt by the state Department of Fish and Game, turned up nothing.

Brought back to the trail Monday, the man could not identify where the reported attack occurred, Ryan said.

Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson told the Palo Alto City Council Monday night that officers believed the report was fabricated.

"It appears there was no mountain lion," said Ryan, who dubbed the resultant search a "wild goose chase."

It was a pricey chase. The state wildlife department brought in five wardens, special cougar-sniffing dogs and a professional animal tracker in what warden Patrick Foy called an "aggressive" effort.

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He called $10,000 a "reasonable estimate" of investigation costs, which include roughly 80 hours of labor plus fuel and other expenses, he said.

Foothills Park and nearby Pearson-Arastradero Preserve — where a long-distance mountain lion sighting was reported Saturday — were closed Sunday through Tuesday.

There have been only 16 confirmed mountain lion attacks in California since 1890, Foy said.

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No fines for hiker who cried 'lion'

Portola Valley man sticks to his story

by Arden Pennell / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 17, 2008, 2:49 pm

The man whose reported weekend mountain-lion attack in Palo Alto's Foothills Park was found "unsubstantiated" by state officials will not be charged with making a false report, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan said Thursday.

Earlier, police said the Portola Valley resident could have been fined the estimated $10,000 cost of the investigation, if it were determined he had made up his story.

But the hiker "stuck to his guns" in an interview Thursday, insisting he had been attacked, Ryan said.

After consulting with the Santa Clara County district attorney, police decided there was not a strong enough case to charge him, according to Ryan.

The man told officials Sunday he had been hiking the Los Trancos Trail Saturday afternoon when he felt something shove him from behind. He rolled down the hillside, hitting a tree trunk, then saw a mountain lion scamper away, Ryan said.

But an extensive hunt for evidence or the cat itself Sunday and Monday, as well as a forensic examination of the man's shirt by the state Department of Fish and Game, turned up nothing.

Brought back to the trail Monday, the man could not identify where the reported attack occurred, Ryan said.

Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson told the Palo Alto City Council Monday night that officers believed the report was fabricated.

"It appears there was no mountain lion," said Ryan, who dubbed the resultant search a "wild goose chase."

It was a pricey chase. The state wildlife department brought in five wardens, special cougar-sniffing dogs and a professional animal tracker in what warden Patrick Foy called an "aggressive" effort.

He called $10,000 a "reasonable estimate" of investigation costs, which include roughly 80 hours of labor plus fuel and other expenses, he said.

Foothills Park and nearby Pearson-Arastradero Preserve — where a long-distance mountain lion sighting was reported Saturday — were closed Sunday through Tuesday.

There have been only 16 confirmed mountain lion attacks in California since 1890, Foy said.

Comments

julie
Midtown
on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:51 pm
julie, Midtown
on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:51 pm



I feel given the public execution right in front of the the PAPD headquarters downtown by a gangster thug that we have more important things to worry about than phantom lions in Foothill don't you?


your blinders slipped
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:58 pm
your blinders slipped, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:58 pm

And your point is -- ? You want us not to talk about anything else? Or is it that you want the police to stop multi-tasking?

Feel free to limit your worrying to whatever you'd like. If there are things you don't want to worry or think about, don't open the thread.


mary
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm
mary, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm



The PAPD is focusing on what is urgent and important, catching and ending the career of the murdering gangster thug.

The paper lion incident is not important and not urgent

The PAPD is doing the right thing.


CP
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm
CP, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Appalling! How about the runaway bride? There was some penalty for her false disappearance. This lion liar should not be able to get away with wasting our tax dollars and time. At least publicly humiliate him!

Sure, there are more important things for PAPD to concentrate on and they can. It is up to the lawyers to charge this guy--the PAPD is out of it.


Seth
another community
on Jul 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm
Seth, another community
on Jul 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm

He should at least get a ticket for trespassing and admonished never to return to the park without a proper city resident chaperone.


End of Story
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2008 at 10:19 pm
End of Story, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2008 at 10:19 pm

The PAPD in consultation with the Santa Clara District Attorney does not think it is worth pursuing probably because it would cost more than $10,000 to prosecute.


trudy
Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2008 at 6:02 am
trudy, Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2008 at 6:02 am

So how come his name hasn't been published?


Senor blogger
Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2008 at 7:34 am
Senor blogger, Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2008 at 7:34 am

WOW,

The State Wild Life Dept. must really be OVERSTAFFED-- 5 wardens, a tracker and a dog.... What no Helicopters?

Mister Simitiam pls take note-- for the budget hearings.


Holly
another community
on Jul 18, 2008 at 7:48 am
Holly, another community
on Jul 18, 2008 at 7:48 am



And, why exactly is he not paying the fine?

Who is his good friend in the department?






It has had an effect
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 8:16 am
It has had an effect, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 8:16 am

This false claim has effected some of this community. My son was to go to Foothill Day Camp and has been looking forward to it. Yesterday I got a notice that due to this claim of a lion sighting his session will not take place at Foothill Park- but will be at Rinconada Park - a big difference in venue. I am not criticizing this second location- just that we were signed up and expecting Foothill Park.


Slow Day
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 9:03 am
Slow Day, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 9:03 am

Well, maybe since his address is Portala Valley it contributed to his not getting charged or fined. Wonder if the outcome would have been different if his address was East Palo Alto.


It has had an effect
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 10:28 am
It has had an effect, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 10:28 am

I want to update my posting: I just found out that the Foothill Day Camp starting next week will be at Foothill Park.
I am glad!


Manny the Mountain Lion
another community
on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:00 am
Manny the Mountain Lion, another community
on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:00 am

Has anyone every considered that the man may be mentally ill? I'm sure that there are good reasons for not revealing his name; and, there is no way to prove that he wasn't knocked over by a mountain lion. For all we know, the lion may have accidentally bumped him as it was leaping. THings happen; don't rush to judgement.


MSL
Midtown
on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:14 am
MSL, Midtown
on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:14 am

Have you ever considered that this man THOUGHT he saw a mountain lion? He may have been knocked over by some other animal, or tripped himself and felt like he was pushed. He may have suffered a minor concussion or confusion from the fall and looked up and thought he saw a mountain lion, when it was some other animal or perhaps just the wind.

Any educated person would not be quick to judge, and I am surprised that people on this board are so quick to comment on a case without even questioning different alternatives. People perceive things sometimes that aren't there. People can hallucinate, especially if dehydrated. this person may have been mentally ill. We really don't know.


Annie Oakley
Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm
Annie Oakley, Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Is there any problem in the world that cannot be traced to stupid middle aged men making things up?

2 words, people: Men Lie.


mike
Los Altos Hills
on Jul 18, 2008 at 3:09 pm
mike, Los Altos Hills
on Jul 18, 2008 at 3:09 pm



Annie Oakley

Do not jump to conclusions, he could well be trans gendered,

you will have the GBLT people on your tail if and we have sharp claws.


OhlonePar
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm
OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I'm wondering if he ran into a bobcat and misidentified it. There are bobcats in the park and they're certainly powerful enough to knock someone over if it was on a part of a trail that was steep enough that it was a bit of a challenge to keep one's balance.

Bobcats are smaller, but if you're afraid and falling, it could be remembered as larger than it was. And a lot of people are less than brilliant at wild animal identification.

If it was an honest mistake, they're not going to fine him.


Curious
Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm
Curious, Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm

OhlonePar,

There is NO mistakng a bobcat for a mountian lion, because the bobcat has a stumped tail, and is much smaller. A mountain lion has a tail that is almost as long as it body, if not longer.

Mountain lions do attack humans, and, occasionally, kill them. If you have examples of bobcats attacking humans, unprovoked, please let us know.

Isn't it more believable that he and his signficant other were attacking themselves, and he lost his balance?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 7:16 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Even if he remains anonymous, I believe we all are due an explanation. And, whereas someone anonymously could come on here and pretend to be the hiker and tell us, unless we hear from the PAPD we are not going to believe it.


OhlonePar
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2008 at 12:30 am
OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2008 at 12:30 am

Curious,

I know the two aren't confused if you know anything about them. But we don't know how good an observer this guy was. I've been amazed at the mistakes people will make.

Love the look of bobcats myself with their tufted ears and strong paws and legs. I saw one once near the interpretive center at Foothills.

The "attack" is weird anyway--both guy and cat knocked off balance?


José Curevo
another community
on Jul 19, 2008 at 1:41 am
José Curevo, another community
on Jul 19, 2008 at 1:41 am

I think this cat tail was made up with the assistance of some other helper fellers.
Namely the store bough kind of friends you take to the park..

I speak (hick-up) of Jack, Jim, Johnny and José!

Olé! Olé! Olé! let's celebrate no lion in PA.



jim s
Midtown
on Jul 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm
jim s, Midtown
on Jul 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Sure glad he wasn't riding a mt bike in the park, there certainly would have been dire consequences if that was the case.(TIC)



Tom Lindsay
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2008 at 5:25 pm
Tom Lindsay, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2008 at 5:25 pm

The officials who dealt with this incident where confronted with what they decided was a threat to public safety and quickly decided to take aggressive action to resolve the potential problem. I am sure they thought they made the best decisions they could given the limited, frightening information they possessed and the pressures they were under.

However, it seems to me that the cart was shoved way before the horse in this case.
Additional, salient information could have been gained in a few hours. This information would have relieved the pressure and most likely would have nipped this story in the bud before it ever saw the light of day. Instead it blossomed into a full-blown, embarrassing, and wasteful fiasco.

This information could have been gained if the officials in charge had following rational, unemotional, procedures so they could answer, “yes” to the following questions:

1. It sounds like the hiker first reported his “attack” by placing a phone call to, I assume, the Palo Alto Police Department since Palo Alto Police Agent Ryan was prominently quoted in subsequent news articles. If this was the case, given this unbelievably bizarre, exceedingly rare, human-cougar account, was the hiker required to immediately appear in person to tell his story and fill out a detailed police report BEFORE any official or public action was taken to address his alleged attack?

2. Also, given the strange nature of the report, was the hiker instructed to bring with him all of the clothes he was wearing at the time of the alleged attack and any other items that were on his person (binoculars, cameras and the like)?

3. After the hiker filled out the incident report, which must require a signature swearing the veracity of what was written under penalty of law, was the first interview conducted by at least two police investigators trained in the art of separating fact from fiction?

4. After the investigators heard his story and read his account in the police report, was their first request (or one of their first) to examine the hiker’s clothes worn during the attack? Assuming the hiker remembered to bring them, did the investigators start with the shirt - the area of alleged cougar contact? Did they notice that it had no rips that might have been caused by razor sharp claws that cougars ALWAYS unsheathe when they jump on the back of their prey (usually deer - humans only 16 times since 1890) to secure their prey so the cougar can then bite though its neck? Did the investigators also notice there were no obvious tawny-colored hairs clinging to the shirt? Did they brush the shirt onto a white surface (photocopy paper would do) and notice that NOT EVEN ONE cougar hair, missed on first look, revealed itself?

5. Although unnecessary at this point, but to be thorough, did the investigators ask the hiker to remove his shirt so they could determine if his back displayed any evidence that a cougar had jumped on it, struck with enough force to knock the hiker off his feet and send him skidding down a slope say 15 feet, give or take? If the hiker consented to remove his shirt, did the officials notice that, just like the shirt, there were no cougar-claw lacerations, and unlike the shirt, that there were no bruises (surely to be evident if the hiker’s account were true)?

6. Did the investigators ask the hiker to explain why there was absolutely no physical evidence on this shirt or his bare back that indicated a chipmunk, let alone a cougar, had been anywhere near his person? Were they getting even more suspicious when the hiker produce no coherent explanation but stammered a lot?

7. At this point did the investigators inform (hopefully remind) the hiker that filing a false police report is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or fines? Did the hiker continue to stammer, ask to call his lawyer or begin to show any recognition that the cat was out of the bag?

8. Did the officials then do whatever seemed most effective, given the hiker’s present mental, emotional, stammering state, to let the hiker back off his fabrication and tell them what was really going on? Based on what the hiker told them, did they shred the police report and tell him to admit to his wife that he had fabricated the cougar story. That he really acquired the scrapes and bruises when he fell off that bluff she insisted a man his age couldn’t possibly climb - and knowing she was a cougar-lover would agree with him that they shouldn’t report the attack because the authorities would just rush out and kill the animal? (Turned out she feared more for the public than the cougar and threatened to tell the authorities if he didn’t) Or did they call in a psychiatrist because the man seemed prone to fantasy, was delusional or patently insane? Or did they charge him with a crime, allow him to call his lawyer and throw him gently, so not to bruise his back, into the slammer?

Given how this pathetic incident played out, it seems clear that the answer to most if not all of these questions is “no”. The next time officials are tempted to buy the unbelievable simply because the lie is SO big and SO frightening, I hope they will take a couple of calm hours so they can answer, “yes”. It will save everyone including them a lot of time, money, energy, emotion, embarrassment, hysteria, and in this case, possibly the life of an innocent cougar which happened to be in the wrong part of HIS territory when the dogs and gun arrived.


good grief
Midtown
on Jul 20, 2008 at 9:54 am
good grief, Midtown
on Jul 20, 2008 at 9:54 am

Good grief: Give it a rest. You people are SO judgemental and critical! Maybe the guy was knocked down, honestly believed it was a moutain lion for whatever reason, and so reported it in the good heartedness of a concerned citizen.

You all are making it so that we have to have a photo and claw marks before we report anything that worries us.

I am glad they are keeping his name private. With the nutcases out there, his life would be in danger if some "animal rights" extremist got ahold of his name.


I Nominate
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2008 at 10:06 am
I Nominate, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2008 at 10:06 am

I nominate Tom Lindsay to organize and lead a Procedural Advisory Council for animal-human interaction incidents (a volunteer and unbudgeted position). They can review our existing policies, research, discuss, hold public hearings, and develop new draft policies, and then meet with the appropriate person in PAPD to review for implementation, as well as prepare appropriate training materials for our personnel. The Council can then re-convene for after-action analysis of any incidents and review and prepare revisions for the procedures for future discussion by the PAPD and the community. At the PAPD's discretion, Tom can be on-call for actual incidents to read from the manual and advise on the 'right' way to do things.

That way, the next time a "pathetic" incident like this occurs, Tom can simply address a mirror to chide about all the things that were done wrong.


I second
Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm
I second, Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm

I second "I Nominate"'s nomination.


Mom w/kids
Duveneck School
on Jul 21, 2008 at 12:39 am
Mom w/kids, Duveneck School
on Jul 21, 2008 at 12:39 am

To the two people who posted directly above: this forum is to talk about the topic rather than trash people. I agree that Tom's post was way too long.

The officials clearly moved too quickly on this one. All they needed to do was close down the park, then question the "victim" more. As Tom commented, if he was really knocked down by a large cat, it would be obvious on his skin and shirt. Hopefully, Foy has learned his lesson. I think the hiker should be publicly humiliated at least.



Nora Charles
Registered user
Stanford
on Jul 21, 2008 at 3:45 am
Nora Charles, Stanford
Registered user
on Jul 21, 2008 at 3:45 am

It's just odd to me that an animal in it's own territory--not on a city street for instance--would be tracked and possibly killed. Couldn't signs be posted warning people to enter the park at their own risk if there are sightings, phantom or not?

As for the man, maybe it was bobcat, though didn't the report say there were no hairs found on his clothing? But why even tell authorities? Shouldn't one realize such things can happen when you enter creatures' habitat? Certainly he should be fined.


not people I would like to be friends with
Midtown
on Jul 21, 2008 at 7:22 am
not people I would like to be friends with, Midtown
on Jul 21, 2008 at 7:22 am

To all those STILL sitting in judgement of the man who reported this: I just really pray you never

call 911, thinking you are having a heart attack but it is just indigestion ( PLEASE CALL IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBT AT ALL, INDIGESTION THAT doesn't respond ASAP to antacids is a HUGE sign of impending heart attack and we would all prefer you be safe than sorry), ...

Or, calling the police who send out a car with 2 cops to check out the area around your house and on your roof because you heard a rustle....and it turns out your have roof rats.

Or calling out the fire department because you smelled smoke, ..but it was your neighbor BBQing...

I think that from now on every false alarm should be presumed malicious and the person making the report should have to PAY..by damn, SOMEBODY SHOULD PAY!

What a bunch of vindictive people. What do you think public services are for? If we had to worry about PAYING every time we made a mistake, how many people would die or be injured because someone DOESN'T report something for fear they are wrong and will have to PAY for it, by damn, and be publicly humiliated by being called a a drunk? Or psycho? Or whatever?

Get off your high horse, people, and try a little compassion! If this guy does it AGAIN, ok, fine, something is up. But until then, could you all please be a little less quick to judge?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2008 at 10:46 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2008 at 10:46 am

It is because of all this speculation that we should know the true story behind this. I don't want to hear any names, but I do want the authorities to explain what happened.


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