Mountain lions (also known as pumas, cougars, or panthers) are native to California's San Francisco Bay area and live in District parklands and adjacent open spaces but are rarely seen because they generally avoid and retreat from human contact. Mountain lion attacks on humans are very rare but may cause widespread interest and concern because they are widely publicized. There is no record of a mountain lion ever having attacked a person in Contra Costa or Alameda Counties.
Learn to recognize this large cat. It is tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and tail. Adult males may be more than 8 feet long, from nose to end of tail, and generally weigh between 130 and 150 pounds. Adult females can be 7 feet long and weigh between 65 and 90 pounds. Mountain lions have long, thick, furry tails, in contrast to much smaller bobcats which have stubby tails and tufted ears.
Mountain lions are very powerful and normally prey upon large animals, such as deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and goats. It is fair to say that they are present anywhere wild populations of such prey are found.
While using the trails, keep children and pets close to you. Be alert below ledges or steep slopes. Hiking or riding with a friend, rather than alone, will reduce your overall safety risk on the trails.
If you encounter a mountain lion at close range:
- stand tall and face the animal, but do not approach it; you may back away slowly, but do not run or walk away from or past it
- make eye contact
- pick up any small children without crouching down or turning your back to do so
- leave a route for the lion to use as an escape
- make yourself appear as large as possible: wave your arms slowly up and down or open your coat
- talk at the lion in a loud, firm voice
- throw sticks or rocks at the animal, but don't crouch down or turn your back in order to pick anything up
- if you are attacked:
- fight back
- try to remain on your feet in order to protect your head and neck
- poke or hit the animal with anything available: a rock, your walking stick, or your fist
If you are involved in a face-to-face encounter with, or an attack by, a mountain lion anywhere in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's 24-hour dispatch center at 916.445.0045. If the encounter took place within the District, contact the District's 24-hour dispatch center at 510.881.1833. In an emergency in the East Bay Regional Park District, call 911 (call 510.881.1121 from a cell phone) 24 hours a day.
- Mountain lions in California, State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- "Commonly Asked Questions About Mountain Lions", State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- "Mountain Lion Sightings Rarely Spell Trouble", State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Friday, January 23, 2004
- "Mountain Lion Facts: 12 Safety Tips", Mountain Lion Foundation
- "Mountain lions protected, so attacks are on the rise", by Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, February 25, 2007
- "Experts see hope, not threat, in cougar sightings; Parks officials pleased mountain lions are still regular residents of open space areas", by Erin Hallissy, San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, June 24, 2004
- "As opportunists, big cats are going where the food is: Population steady, experts say, but sightings are up", by Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, May 18, 2004
- "Keeping clear of mountain lions", by Christopher Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, May 14, 2004
- "Kings of the mountains: Lion encounters on the rise as cats adapt to human presence" and "Ways to minimize the risk", by Paul McHugh, San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, April 8, 2004
- "Mountain lions offer less threat than commute", by Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, August 5, 2001