There might be a mountain lion on the prowl at the top of Whites Canyon in Canyon Country.
Owners of “Koda,” an 80-pound border collie, returned to their Hawks Ridge Drive home Wednesday night around 8:45 and found their pet bloodied inside the house near the pet door.
“He has a gigantic hole in his back, but the vet saved him,” explained Robin Sandoval-March. “The vet said that she thinks it was a large animal, like a mountain lion, that grabbed him from behind.”
Sandoval-March said that the headlights of the car may have startled the animal, but said they didn’t see anything running from the yard.
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“Koda came through the doggy door,” she said, adding that the family rushed him to the 24-hour vet with a gaping wound on his back near his hindquarters. She said the wound was about 15 inches long, six inches wide and five inches deep.
“The vet said she didn’t think it was coyotes, even a pack, because of the size and the depth. She said if it was a pack, there would be some nips, some little bites and defensive wounds, but there was nothing. She told us that mountain lions attack from the back.”
The family home abuts mountains on two sides, so officials from the California Department of Fish and Game didn’t find the attack unusual.
“We live in their home,” said Andrew Hughan, spokesperson for the agency. “Mountain lions eat deer as their primary food, if they see a dog run by, that’s even better. This really is their country, so we have to be careful.”
The average mountain lion weighs 185-230 pounds, but it’s not just the animal’s weight that puts it at an advantage, even against an 80-pound canine.
“They are much stronger than dogs,” Hughan explained. “They’re faster and unbelievably quiet. You will walk by and never know they’re there.”
He warned residents to avoid leaving animal food outside, even briefly.
“Mountain lions do what they do and that’s eat. If there are no other food sources, they’ll be attracted to pets and small creatures.”
And yes, he means children. But he quickly adds that in the 142 years that the state has been keeping records, there have only been 16 verified mountain lion attacks and only six of them have been fatal.
“Human contact is very rare,” he concluded.
Sandoval-March said that when she and her husband went into the backyard this morning, they found tufts of Koda’s fur all over the yard.
“He’s my mom’s dog,” she said. “She’s been traumatized all morning.”
They haven’t had a chance to talk with the neighbors to see if anyone saw anything unusual last night, because they’ve been at the vet’s all day. Koda is expected to survive, but will take a lot of care. Sandoval-March said she’s not even sure she’ll let him out into the backyard to “do his business” without an adult escort.
“He’s such a gentle dog,” she said.
The California Fish and Game website (www.dfg.ca.gov) offers several tips on living in close proximity with wild animals.
More than half of California is mountain lion habitat. Mountain lions generally exist wherever deer are found. They are solitary and elusive, and their nature is to avoid humans.
Mountain lions prefer deer but, if allowed, they also eat pets and livestock. In extremely rare cases, even people have fallen prey to mountain lions.
Mountain lions that threaten people are immediately killed. Those that prey on pets or livestock can be killed by a property owner after the required depredation permit is secured. Moving problem mountain lions is not an option. It causes deadly conflicts with other mountain lions already there. Or the relocated mountain lion returns.
Help prevent deadly conflicts with these beautiful wild animals.
Living in Mountain Lion Country
- Don’t feed deer; it is illegal in California and it will attract mountain lions.
- Deer-proof your landscaping by avoiding plants that deer like to eat. For tips, request A Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage from DFG offices.
- Trim brush to reduce hiding places for mountain lions.
- Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.
- Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
- Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats, and other vulnerable animals.
- Don’t allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk, and at night.
- Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums and other potential mountain lion prey.
Staying Safe in Mountain Lion Country
Mountain lions are quiet, solitary and elusive, and typically avoid people.
Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare. However, conflicts are increasing as California’s human population expands into mountain lion habitat.
- Do not hike, bike, or jog alone.
- Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk, and at night.
- Keep a close watch on small children.
- Do not approach a mountain lion.
- If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
- If attacked, fight back.
- If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.
Mountain lion tracks are sometimes confused with dog tracks.
Notice the toenail marks and the rounded paw pads. This is a dog track.
Notice the elongated toes and the M-shaped paw pad. These are mountain lion tracks.