College of the Canyons officials have temporarily closed the cross country trails on campus due to the sighting of a large cat, likely a cougar, by a runner on Monday evening, July 11.
Large cougar tracks in the same vicinity, on the west side of the campus near the I-5 freeway, were reported to campus security on Monday morning. Security posted signs and a campus-wide e-mail advising of the possibility of a cougar on campus was immediately sent out to all faculty and staff so that they could increase their vigilance and pass the word on to students and others using the campus this summer.
Cougar tracks have been a relatively common spring and summer sight on the 154-acre campus over the years. Sightings of the big cats, however, have been relatively rare. Tracks are most often seen on the west side of campus where there is a natural water source and an abundant food supply.
Monday evening’s sighting occurred between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. with a runner on the cross country trail reportedly seeing the cat in a tree.
The college has reported the incident to the state department of fish and game with a warden expected to inspect the area on Tuesday or Wednesday, July 12 or 13.
“In the past, we have worked closely with the experts at fish and game to determine the best course of action,” said John McElwain, director of public relations at the college. “Usually we have sightings of tracks, but rarely have people reported actual sightings,” said McElwain.
The college wants everyone on its campus and residents in adjacent communities to be aware of the sighting so they can be well informed and exercise extra caution with their own activities, the activities of their children and their pets.
“We don’t want to sound alarmist,” stressed McElwain, “but this is the kind of information that people have a right to know.”
The state fish and game warden hopefully will be able to advise the college about whether there is more than one cat, whether he or she is just passing through or intends to stay a while, what patterns the cat is exhibiting and other details that will determine appropriate courses of action.
“It is important for everyone to understand,” said McElwain, “that until we know more about our visitor, everyone in the vicinity needs to be vigilant and cautious.”