UPDATE: Some trails have reopened as of Monday, Aug. 26. More information is here. Rancho San Antonio is temporarily closed due to mountain lion activity within the area.
A mountain lion mother with three adolescent cubs are believed to be living in or near the preserve, according to Leigh Ann Gessner, public affairs specialist with Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
With a location conveniently close to urban areas, Rancho San Antonio has become the Peninsula’s most visited open space preserve.
The Midpeninsula district closed certain trails on Saturday, Aug. 17 in response to concerns from preserve visitors who had made frequent and regular wildlife sightings in recent weeks. Friday morning, Aug. 23, district officials made the decision to close the preserve entirely.
More unusual than the recurrence of the sightings, Gessner said, was the lions’ apparent lack of fear toward humans.
“Because these mountain lions are frequenting an area of open space, they’re becoming habituated with people,” Gessner said. “In the long run it is much safer...for the lions have a healthy fear of people. That allows lions to coexist with people in the preserve.”
The Midpeninsula and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are working together to monitor the situation. Gessner said that Fish and Wildlife is attempting to implement humane deterrents to draw the lions away from the preserve and “instill fear” of humans into the animals.
Currently, Fish and Wildlife, along with Midpeninsula biologists, have placed a few deer carcasses in the preserve to lure the lions away. If the team can succeed in drawing the lions to the carcasses, Gessner said, they will use tools to emit loud noises to create a “healthy fear” of humans.
According to Gessner, the situation at Rancho San Antonio points to an ongoing regional challenge for wildlife that struggle to coexist with people. Mountain lions, in particular, require large territories and have gradually seen that space overtaken by highways and urban areas.
“(Wildlife) sometimes get pushed out to the edge where open space and the urban areas meet,” Gessner said. “Part of why protecting open space is so important is to preserve the habitat of wildlife.”
Gessner said she could not speculate as to when the trail closures would be lifted. Updates can be found on the Midpeninsula district’s website.