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April 01, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, April 01, 2005

4 lions spotted at Moffett 4 lions spotted at Moffett (April 01, 2005)

Sighting by security guard unconfirmed

By Allison Gerard

A Moffett Field security guard on routine patrol spotted an unexpected group of visitors last week -- four mountain lions strolling near a golf course.

The guard viewed the big cats from the safety of a truck, the first sighting ever recorded at Moffett.

Deborah Bartens, the Palo Alto naturalist who was called to investigate, said the guard gave an accurate description of mountain lions, although she was unable to find tracks that would confirm their presence.

The lions were spotted at 12:45 a.m. on the east side of Ames Research Center near the Moffett Field golf course on March 23. The guard reported seeing two adults and two cubs, which Bartens said was more likely a mother and three cubs, or two mothers and their young. She said a male mountain lion would not be with a female traveling with her young.

Bartens said the good news is that the lions were not acting aggressively, but the question of how they got to Moffett has yet to be answered. A likely theory, Bartens said, is that they followed a creek system down from the foothills, a normal route they take to find food.

If the four animals that were spotted did indeed take Stevens Creek to Moffett, it would mean that they passed through Mountain View, although no other sightings were reported. According to Bartens, lions are very solitary and do not want to be seen. In fact, she said, they see humans much more often than humans see them.

Since recent mountain lion spottings last year in Palo Alto, residents have become more aware of the animals' presence. A May sighting resulted in the controversial shooting of one lion by Palo Alto police.

"One of the most important things is for people to familiarize themselves with the animals," said Bartens.

Knowing how to prevent attacks and how to protect oneself is one way to get educated about the animals, she said. When faced with a mountain lion, standing tall and not running away has been shown to reduce attacks. She also advises people to pick up small children so they don't look like prey and to avoid hiking alone.

To reduce encounters with mountain lions, Bartens said homeowners should avoid leaving pet food outside and to keep brush cut back to reduce the small prey, such as raccoons and rats, around the house.

More information on California mountain lions can be found at
E-mail Allison Gerard at [email protected]

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