Mountain Lion Acts Aggressively Towards Children, Shuts Down Public Park In California

A mountain lion seen acting aggressively towards children in Cupertino, California, resulted in the shut down of a public park.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that a standoff between Santa Clara County deputies and a mountain lion on Saturday looked more like a confrontation between police and a criminal.

Deputies were waiting for a mountain lion to come down from a tree after it reportedly growled at children before climbing up a limb. The Sheriff’s Office evacuated McClellan Ranch Preserve as a precaution, Captain Rick Sung said. Experts from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the incident and decided against tranquilizing and relocating the animal. They chose to wait out the cougar’s next move, which ended up with it descending the tree after nightfall and walking away peacefully.

Sung said he was “very concerned” about the mountain lion’s presence after hearing from a park visitor that it behaved aggressively toward local children. The large cat lounged in the branches of a tree near McClellan Road and Club House Lane, located across the street from a residential neighborhood.

Sung said a lot of deputies surrounded the park as a safety measure for residents. At the time the park was evacuated, several hundred children were there with their families.

It’s not unusual for the Sheriff’s Office to get calls about mountain lion sightings, but it’s uncommon to get a report that they’re exhibiting aggression.

“Usually what it is, is people will see it and the mountain lion will just walk away,” Sung said.

Since 1986, there have been 14 reported mountain lion attacks in California. Three of those attacks were fatal, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 2014, a 6-year-old boy was attacked near the Picchetti Winery in Cupertino but survived.

Sung said deputies never intended to harm the animal on Saturday.

“Of course we’re not shooting the mountain lion,” Sung said. “Absolutely not.”

Concern grew over the mountain lion after the park was shut down due to Cincinnati Zoo officials having to shoot and kill a gorilla after a 3-year-old entered its enclosure on May 28. The incident drew fire from animal lovers.

Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan said he was unaware of the mountain lion causing panic at the park on Saturday. Hughan couldn’t comment specifically in this instance, but he said killing a mountain lion is always a last resort. The department has implemented two new provisions in its guideline for responding to lion encounters after Fish and Wildlife wardens killed two small cubs in 2012 in Half Moon Bay. It resulted in a public outcry.

“Unless it’s a threat to public safety,” Hughan said, “our policy is not to do anything. The lion is just being a lion.”

Lynn Cullens, the associate director of the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation, supported the way the mountain lion in Cupertino was handled.

“I think it speaks really well to everyone that this didn’t get made into something that it clearly wasn’t — which was a large public safety issue,” she said. “And it clearly was not a large public safety issue.”

People are often intimidated or frightened by mountain lions. They rarely display aggression and are usually passing through if residents see them. It’s a good idea to be cautious whenever you see one and keep a safe distance from them. If an animal acts out, it’s usually because they feel threatened.

[Image via Shutterstock]