News

Mountain lion reported on south Palo Alto roof

Full-grown lion sighted at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in 800 block of Rorke Way, east of Middlefield Road

A full-grown mountain lion was sighted Thursday evening on a rooftop in south Palo Alto, in the 800 block of Rorke Way, police reported today (Friday).

Sgt. Dan Ryan said a 45-year-old man heard footsteps on the roof of a neighbor's house and saw the large cat, which jumped off the roof into the back yard.

The man told police he had just visited a museum where he had seen a stuffed cat, with a long, distinctive tail, and was positive of his sighting.

Police searched the area but could find no trace of the cat, Ryan said. There were no tracks evident in the hard ground, unlike an earlier sighting of a lion on a rooftop by a teenage girl when the lion jumped into a damp flowerbed and left deep tracks, he said.

An officer stayed in the area for about an hour. But no one else has reported seeing the cougar, Ryan said. Without a second sighting the telephone-alert system was not activated, he added.

Rorke Way is three houses away from Barron Creek, which Ryan called "a mountain-lion highway. They use it as a natural trail."

On May 17, 2004, a young mountain lion was spotted by a newspaper deliveryman around the Newell Road area and was finally cornered in a tree on Walnut Drive and shot dead by police.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by MidtownMom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Is this the Rorke Way near Palo Verde Elementary?


Like this comment
Posted by Another Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2009 at 3:30 pm

According to Google Maps, it looks like Rorke Way is right near the YMCA on Ross Road.


Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm

HA!!! That was a good one PAmoderate!


Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

yep, yep near Palo Verde, thats my creek, used to walk it for years when I went to Ross Road elementary. The houses backing up to the creek between Ross and Louis are on Rorke. But it's completely dry right now, find it hard to believe that a cougar would come down from teh hills that way, San Francisquito Creek yea, Baron naw. because it also has a long tunnel at El Camino don't think a cougar would walk a long "can't see the end" tunnel. Something's wrong with this pic.


Like this comment
Posted by Gran
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2009 at 1:01 am

OMG Whats next--a chupacabra in Borders?


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 5, 2009 at 1:33 am

I don't think the cougars are necessarily coming down from the hills that way. I suspect that a while back they came down the creek (one creek or several) and have now taken up residence in the marsh area.

There is a lot of area out there they could settle in...the whole area towards Sunnyvale past Moffett, the hunting area, towards Alviso, etc. There is a lot of game, pelicans and ducks....a mountain lion would just have to wait by the shore and pounce. And then there is the buffet at the duck pond.

And as their population expands they now "backflow" back into residential areas adjacent.

Somebody really needs to get a big trap and capture one....then call Animal Control and say "Ugh I caught a wild cat in my yard...it's on the large size"....then video it when they arrive..."yeah I told you it was big".


Like this comment
Posted by Former Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Sep 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

When I saw this on the news last night with some people I recognise from PV school being interviewed, I was reminded of when we had our first kindergartner there and a snake, a black mamba, had escaped in the same area. The playground was taped off, parents were all alerted and school was almost closed. We never heard what happened to the snake, but it certainly caused a mini sensation at the school.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

A Noun Ea Mus,
Mountain lions would not like the baylands. They like to climb trees and look down from high places, and there is a distinct lack of those near the bay. They also don't generally eat birds because they don't have enough meat on them to justify the effort spent to catch them. Your speculations are unfounded.


Like this comment
Posted by blank
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

damn, this is bad. mountain lions need 100 square miles of land each, and when that becomes a problem one of the cougars (usually the younger one)will hafta leave the area. and it seems that they are now wandering into the suburbs, and lemme tell you, it is just a matter of time before there are human casulties and mountain lions will be shot.


Like this comment
Posted by Nina Renee
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I grew up in this area in the lower hills. Animals come down from the hills in summer or late summer. They are looking for water. Also,their habitat is continuing to be threatened by people and housing. That is driving them to places they wouldn't normally wander in past years. It still is rare to find one near town.
One of the last time there was a sighting, it was two young cubs in their teenage months. They were both shot. I called the county and they said it wasn't possible to move cats somewhere else - they wind up getting shot instead. And no, cats can't be relocated. They won't be able to live among the cats that are already in the new area for the cat. I heard that to mean, they weren't going to bother with any time and expense. If big cats get moved in other states, they can be moved here.
I know some people may not agree with that but I still believe in living safely but in the company of wildlife. There is really no reason why an organization couldn't be contacted who would remove them to an area where they could thrive or live with them in this beautiful area as other states live with their bear population.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Regarding..

"Mountain lions would not like the baylands. They like to climb trees and look down from high places, and there is a distinct lack of those near the bay. They also don't generally eat birds because they don't have enough meat on them to justify the effort spent to catch them. Your speculations are unfounded."

Indeed my speculation (and it is just that) may be unfounded.

But...

Have you seen the pelicans and ducks out there? Or been to the duck pond? I could take a bow and arrow, and a hibachi and coals, live out there like King Henry VIII for a while (just add the wives).

They may also like to climb trees and do the whole ambush/bit the skull thing. But they also don't usually hang out in the suburbs either. Nor have they re-spread across virtually the entire western USA (and more) because they are picky about the habitat . They aren't being driven out so much as driven IN. Their numbers are increasing and they follow the also increasing deer population....and the deer come down the creek....but once in the Baylands a quick look/see and there are plenty of big birds. I was just out on my bike at baylands last week and there was a ton of Pelicans, very big.

From this link..

Web Link


"In the United States, the mountain lion often favors white tail and mule deer, but it will prey on any animal it can catch, including anything from elk, moose and bighorn sheep to rodents, reptiles and birds. Some even eat insects."

It could also be that the cougars have established a migration time to match when larger birds are there.?

It just doesn't make sense to me that the cougars are regularly traveling all the way from the hills down the entire length of the creek trail then back up, then back down,...like people riding CalTrain to and from PA to SF each day.

A long time ago the very first recent semi-urban sighting was at the Baylands. It was described at the time as "credible" but nothing else for awhile. Then there was the famous shooting by Newell Rd and Walter Hays, one by a crrek near El Carmelo school, one behind the bar Stao's at 101 just before San Antonio (after sighting the paper said there were cougar tracks and eviscerated ducks found), a while back on a roof near Jordan, now this. Probably others I've forgotten or weren't even reported. One gets the impression that they are already somewhat established in the marsh areas and then coming back into the drainways (I couldn't imagine one being in the open so much as to traverse the entire Adobe or Matadero Creeks.

No need to make this any dispute really. I could well be wrong, but the traditional "model" that they are feline versions of Caltrain PA to SF commuters down the creek doesn't match the sightings.

Maybe I'll ride my bike across Dumbarton and see one running alongside the cars also. :)


Like this comment
Posted by wildman
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 5, 2009 at 5:17 pm

lots of sightings of mountain lions this year. I hope people keep their pets and kids safe. see Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm



Only one alleged witness

"45-year-old man heard footsteps on the roof of a neighbor's house and saw the large cat, which jumped off the roof into the back yard.

The man told police he had just visited a museum where he had seen a stuffed cat, with a long, distinctive tail, and was positive of his sighting.

Police searched the area but could find no trace of the cat"

Real large cat footsteps are very, very quiet-- stealth is their strategy


Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Good to know we'll be alerted by the city. There's an amazingly beautiful clip on YouTube dot com entitled Mountain Lion Encounter.The video was made by a homeowner in Colorado of mountain lion which came into her yard. She and her children are safe, inside their home. Fascinating to watch! In case the link will work, i'm providing it below. City officials, PLEASE don't kill any of these creatures without trying to relocate first.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Daily Telegraph writer mauled after entering lion's enclosure

Here is a video of the encounterWeb Link

He is lucky he survived, a very ungrateful lion.


Like this comment
Posted by lol
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 6, 2009 at 6:24 am

it was a fat cat !!

or it was a guy in a cat suit....maybe halle berry....nice kitty


Like this comment
Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Web Link

Imagine this deer is a small child. Do you still want the city to try and talk to the mountain lion and ask if it would like to relocate?

The death of these amazing predators is the price we pay for sprawling out.

qq


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

If someone with a house up on the top of Skyline was having local mountain lions killed then it might be the "sprawling out" which is to blame.

But most of the recent sightings (Foothill and Arastadero Park, near PA library on Newell, creeks coming back up from the Marsh) are in places that have been more human habitat for over 100 years. The mountain lions aren't being pushed out so much as just expanding their numbers and the overflow then tries to establish in the crevices.


Like this comment
Posted by PD
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 7, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Sounds like a project for Stanford to set up night/motion cams at all the lion highways, Los Trancos, Francisquito etc. for the next few years... see how the traffic patterns go...


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2009 at 5:01 pm


Cougars mark territory when they scratch or rub up against trees using scent glands on their paws and face.
Scat and urine are also used to mark territories.
PAPD has dogs, including bloodhounds, who could easily determine whether a real or a phantom cougar was the issue, for quite some time after the alleged sighting.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 7, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Well there was that "encounter" a while back at Foothill Park, where the person claimed to have been attacked/pushed down a hill. And not any evidence was found. And, not having to read too deep between the lines, it looked like a false report.

Sure people have cell phones with cameras, but a mountain lion jumping off a roof would be quick. Not everyone is Quick Draw McGraw with their cell phone camera.

In this case the news story has no hint that the police officer's "Blink" cast any doubt. In fact Officer Ryan is quoted as saying that creek is a "mountain lion" highway. And there has been multiple other sightings in the general area over the last few years.

I see no need to call out Grisham and the cast of CSI to investigate.

Yes maybe Stanford will do the surveillance, then ask people to bring back their dogs to the dish, the bigger the better. To help persuade the mountain lions they have some competition.


Like this comment
Posted by Sarah @ qq
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2009 at 12:08 am

qq-- Funny you! Of course if a person was at immediate risk of attack by a mountain lion, i doubt there would be any bargaining. My point as you knew very well, was hopefully not to have a repeat of lion that was shot while sitting still in a tree here a few years ago.
Perhaps the Weekly could interview those in charge in the City of PA, or Fish and Wildlife and PA Animal Services. It would be good for all of us to know if there is at least an option for tranquilzation, for the big cat.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 8, 2009 at 6:31 am

When the cat was shot while sitting up in a tree a few years back---near Walter Hays and Newell--the police had already consulted some experts who advised against using tranquilizers. The lion had to be shot.

But if there is a way to revisit this in such a way that a future shooting doesn't have to occur I'd be for it. I would just hope this was really viable, not sacrificing public safety at some PR altar. That incident made national news. I just happened to be riding my bike past the police station on Forest the day after the shooting and the news cameras were out in force, an official on the steps being interviewed.

The shooting was televised. I remember the female police officer shouting to the dispatcher something to the effect of "It's in my sights, what do you want me to do?". Does anyone remember the old Johnny Carson "I hate cats" jokes? What if the dispatcher had let loose with one of them just before telling her to go ahead and shoot?

If we can capture them safely, maybe the Junion Museum could have a Mountain Lion enclosure? But "we're going to need a bigger boat", as they need a lot of room.


Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2009 at 7:13 am

Jeez. I go away for the weekend, and the PAO editors remove my cougar joke?


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 8, 2009 at 9:39 am

Not only that. The Cougar conference didn't seem to get much coverage. I heard it was such a success it snarled up traffic. Perhaps PA Online thinks it makes Purfect sense not to cover it.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm

No wonder we have mountain lions roaming around in town.

Oddly enough for the first time I have seen deer wandering around in Palo Alto.
One on El Camino over by El Palo Alto, and the other over by Midtown somewhere.
It was late at night/early in the morning, but I have never seen that before.
Have others, or is this new? I suspect that with all the new giant houses in the hills there is no other place for them to go.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm

There aren't that many "giant" new houses in the hills. And when people move in and are scattered they usually plant stuff the deer like even better, plus people tend to scare off their predators--at least at first. No one is hunting them in the coastal range anymore. So the deer and mountain lion population are expanding. The deer come down, the lions follow.....in the suburbs, the Palo Alto suburbs, the lion wanders tonight.......

One night I was riding my bike late behind Gunn, that bike pathway. I had a bright light. Coyote comes by..that little creek that comes down can be loaded with a ton of ducks.


Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Let's just shoot it like what our police woman did last time. We can always ask questions later.


Like this comment
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Have you driven up in the hills lately? There most certainly are noticeable changes. All the brush inside the hairpin turn that leads up to Foothill park is completely cut down, and the little house that everyone used to comment about not wanting to live there because someone is going to drive into it some night is gone, and the whole area has been cut down. And that is only from a cursory drive up there. There are major changes taking place.

And as far as what to do about this, shooting a mountain lion seems the responsible thing to do. I like nature, our common environment it is the number one concern for me, but when we make mistake and screw it up, having innocent people pay for those mistakes by getting attacked by a mountain lion is not conservation or nature loving.

The mistake has already been made, don't compound it by doing nothing and pretending you love nature. If you loved nature you would work to stop developement in the hills.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2009 at 11:35 am

I don't doubt that there is some impact on wild life in the hills because of development.

I just take issue with the whole "we're driving them out of their habitat so they're coming into ours" mindset. A sort of tit for tat exchange.

I remember living in the desert of CA when I was in elementary school. Each night the cotton tail rabbits would descend on the lawn and munch away. Our large dog would hide in some bushes and occasionally get one. Imagine the presence of a yard for rabbits evolved to live in an extreme desert. It's sort of like that for the deer---as long as the housing isn't too densely packed the addition of lawns, fountains, gardens, etc., only provides more food for the deer--which in turn provide more food for the mountain lions.

For almost a century the building has gone on in the hills and mountain lions haven't been driven into urban/marshland settings.

The mountain lion population has rebounded and is now spilling over. That fact shouldn't be used as fodder in the environmental debate. Or to hold back on necessary action as if "we've driven them to this".


Like this comment
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm

The deserts of CA and rabbits are much different from Palo Alto and mountain lions.

There are plenty of rabbits out by the Baylands. There are even deer coming down the creeks and the hills. I have never seen that before this year, and in the last few months have seen two of them walking around in the streets.

Everyone has a "mindset", a frame of reference, so please do not use a claim that someone has a mindset to dismiss what people say think or facts they present - especially to dispute them with nonsensical statements.

I have seen with my own eyes what is going on, and I know that sooner or later we are going to have a problem with mountain lions roaming like rabbits in the streets of Palo Alto.

To say that the presence of mountain lions in our city is a sign of a health environment really takes the cake for re-framing and spin, and is pretty comedic if you think about it.

Also the logic of "for almost a century we have done ?? with with no bad effects, so logically there will never be bad effects is exactly in error". Did you think about that? Are you arguing that we can continue to chop up more land ... expanding development and we will never have a problem, or we will only have the problem at some later time so far off into the future that we should not think about it now?


Like this comment
Posted by previous resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Palo Alto residents need to accept the fact that MOUNTAIN LIONS HAVE BEEN SEEN AND CAUGHT in the community. There NO DOUBT they have ventured into the area and will continue to. They have a distance of 100 miles and it's no problem for them to venture where they see fit. The food they are after is your household PETS, especially domestic household CATS and SMALL DOGS. They rarely bother people, but parents with very small children need to watch them. This is high Mountain Lion season right now. Don't be afraid, just be watchful.


Like this comment
Posted by previous resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm

We moved from Palo Alto to Carmel a few years back. There are mountain lions here too, and besides deer, many many household cats and dogs are killed by them every year. Sad, but true. That's what they are after.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Bru..I think you have misinterpreted my comments.

Yes Palo Alto and Mountain Lions is different than Apple Valley and rabbits. But the analogy I was trying to make was akin to Deer in La Honda and Rabbits in Apple Valley. A while back I was staying at a Hotel by the golf course in Tempe AZ. I got up for a very early AM walk around and saw tons of wildlife. The golf course was a draw, actually helped to sustain more wildlife than ordinarily the more arid desert would. This doesn't mean it's more "healthy", just that not all development reduces the count.

I suppose anytime anyone argues with an opposite opinion one must to a degree argue with a "mindset" which underscores it, as well as to some degree "dismiss" it. If I said the earth was flat because the Goddess Kali told me so in a dream....you might counter both with scientific facts as to the earth's true configuration, dismiss my opinion, plus counter the underlying mindset. You might even dismiss it as a nonsensical statement, not? I'm not saying that the whole "we're moving into their area so they're moving into ours" is as similarly ridiculous. But everytime this comes up it gets trotted out as an explanation used to justify just watching some lion stalk a kid or family pet while flicking cigar ashes and humming "The Circle of Life" from Lion King.

I don't think the presence of Mountain Lions is a sign of a healthy environment, They are just rebounding and expanding.

What I meant by the 100 years is that...for that time period there has been relentless building in the hills, at a far greater pace than is underway now. At least in the areas immediately to the west of Palo Alto. All during that time there was not a deluge of mountain lion sightings. Why it is happening now is because of the rebound and expansion.

I am not trying to argue for more expansion. Just that the mountain lion increased urban/marsh presence shouldn't be used as a pawn in the discussion.

To previous resident. If the mountain lions were really after the pets I'm sure that there would have been more at least reasonable speculation, finds of remains, etc. I think they initially followed the deer, then also came for the pelicans, fat ducks, geese and swans and squirrels of the Marshlands and the Duck Pond (suppertime!). But once here and if things got tight, they get too old to hunt as well...domesticated pets and people may be at risk. Also juveniles pushed into new territory may elect to be more catholic in their diet.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Advice from British Columbia

"Children:

Cougars seem to be attracted to children, possibly because their high-pitched voices, small size, and erratic movements make it difficult for cougars to identify them as human and not prey.

* Talk to children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar.
* Encourage children to play outdoors in groups, and supervise children playing outdoors.
* Consider getting a dog for your children as an early-warning system. A dog can see, smell, and hear a cougar sooner then we can. Although dogs offer little value as a deterrent to cougars, they may distract a cougar from attacking a human.
* Consider erecting a fence around play areas.
* Keep a radio playing.
* Make sure children are home before dusk and stay inside until after dawn.
* If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop in the early morning. Clear shrubs away around the bus stop, making an area with a nine-metre (30 foot) radius. Have a light installed as a general safety precaution.Web Link

Actually a cougar was treed in Palo Alto a couple of years ago by a very old but large breed dog.

Cougars have a genetic fear of wolf sized dogs, wolves have competed with cougars for ever and ,as they are pack animals, the wolves always win.
Chow Chows are particularly good at scaring big cats like Cougars according to the Chinese.


Like this comment
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 6:12 pm

> This doesn't mean it's more "healthy", just that not all development reduces the count.

I don't see this twisted explanations as saying anything then. Just remarking that the count is up is not a metric of a health ecosystem, point lost.

> .for that time period there has been relentless building in the hills

Again, you have the water on in the sink at a "relentless rate, and everything is fine until it finally overflows. I have a hard time hearing any point in this relevant to mountain lions.

What discussion you think is taking place where I am using the mountain lions are a pawn? Maybe you are confusing me with someone else, or not reading my posts clearly.

Just for the record though to whatever extent we can I am for a moratorium on all development in the hills. There is only so much land there and I think it makes sense to conserve as much as possible.

I also believe that we cannot allow ourselves to be deluded that mountain lions and human beings will coexist in the long term together and that the mountain lions need to be moved and an attempt made to train them not to come back or they need to be killed or some other removal action taken when they show up alongside people. I hate to say that and it is very sad to kill such a magnificent creature, and hopefully there are alternatives, but to dangle human lives and safety in some misguided idea of environmentalism is not good. Neither is continued development in the hills that externalized the loss of these creature's habitat to the creeks and parks of the city.


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm

But you keep getting back to this (IMO absurd) juxtaposition..

"Neither is continued development in the hills that externalized the loss of these creature's habitat to the creeks and parks of the city."

Interesting article from 1996

Web Link

In the past there was marked decimation of the mountain lion population. Habitat loss, "predator control" (killed thousands), sport hunting, etc. all combined.

And in some areas habitat loss could still be involved. But we have an expanding deer and mountain lion population, no more "predator control" or sport hunting is allowed (and I'm not advocating either). So in the past the habitat loss was also tethered to the direct killing also. Their numbers went way down. Now they are rebounding, though not to the degree possible if all the former habitat was not lost (but then there would be no Palo Alto, no PAOnline, this discussion wouldn't be happening).

Locally, just to the west of Palo Alto there is not enough habitat loss going on to markedly reduce or drive out any established mountain lion population.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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