Special to the Village News
The status of the California mountain lion has changed over the years, from being hunted with a bounty on their head to being an especially protected native mammal. We are living in their territory, and it is their backyard to roam and survive in today's world, which is not easy these days.
They are most plentifully found where there are lots of prey, and adequate native plant cover on our local mountains and they play a key role in the ecosystem of San Diego County.
The adult males can be eight feet long and weigh up to 150 pounds at maturity, with a tan colored fur coat that blends into their surroundings of native chaparral or forest settings.
Their migrating range is from the Santa Ana Mountains, down through the northern section of De Luz, into the mountains of Valley Center, southward into Julian and down into Mexico where they hunt for their prey and survival. Their population has varied over the years, but recent studies estimate 4,000 to 6,000 may be roaming in that extensive long migration range.
These animals are elusive, but you must always be aware when hiking, camping or out in their habitat and remember to keep your eyes alert and attentive.
The following are some key pointers to consider when out in their neighborhood.
• Do not hike alone; go in groups and keep your children close to you on the trails.
• Most mountain lions will avoid confrontation, so give them space to escape.
• Do not run from them because they will engage in their normal chase mode.
• Make eye contact and stand tall, try to become something not to bother with.
• Avoid bending over or crouching because you might look like an animal.
• Do what you can to appear large and intimidating, such as wave your arms and shout in a loud voice.
• Fight back if attacked by throwing stones or sticks at the animal if available.
• Always carry a walking stick for your protection when out hiking.
• Report any confrontation with mountain lions and call 911.
• Inform local rangers as soon as possible if confronting a wild mountain lion.
• Keep your pets in at night and consider installing motion lights around your home.
These tips are from the California Fish and Wildlife Department. For additional information, you may call 858-467-4201 or visit http://www.sparks.com.
Remember, we are living in their territory and we must give respect to all wild animals. The earth is changing and we are just one small link in the ecological system of today's world. Be respectful and educate yourself about your outdoor surroundings when enjoying the bounty of the open wilderness settings in San Diego County.
In addition to the mountain lion, other wildlife in our neighborhoods include coyotes, skunks, weasels, snakes, rabbits, possums, rats, bobcats, and some of these are the prey for the mountain lion's sustainable lifestyle.
I bring these thoughts so you can continue enjoying the great Southern California outdoors and learn that we are all connected in the big picture of nature and living things.
So appreciate their open space and be informed and protective of nature's wildlands from sea to shining sea.
My Boy Scout motto keeps weaving through my thoughts, "be prepared."
Roger Boddaert, The Tree Man of Fallbrook at 760-728-4297.