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Mountain lions, bears not much of a risk, officials say

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Concerns about mountain lions and bears in the Auburn Ravine have risen in the past weeks, intensified by the scheduled opening of the dog park along Green Ravine Road in the coming months. There have been three letters to the editor about these concerns in the last two News Messenger But the reality, according to Kyle Orr, California Department of Fish and Game spokesman, is that attacks by mountain lions and bears are extremely rare. “Since 1890, there have only been 14 verified attacks on humans by mountain lions and only six of those were fatal,” Orr said. He added that there has never been a recorded fatal attack on a human by a black bear in California. Concerns in Lincoln rose when Jeanne Woodcock sent a letter to the News Messenger, saying that she had found a bear carcass in the Auburn Ravine area. In the letter, she added that most residents who live along the Auburn Ravine can confirm the presence of mountain lions. Woodcock said Tuesday that the bear carcass was the first time she’d seen a bear, but that she has heard mountain lions in the past. The bear, she said, was found near one of the dirt trails, and has since been removed. “I haven’t heard anything about dead bears in the Auburn Ravine area in Lincoln, so I can’t answer to that conclusively,” Orr said. Walking 2 ½ miles in the area twice daily, resident Mark Buschmann said he hasn’t seen any bears or mountain lions. “There haven’t been as many out here as people like to think,” Buschmann said, adding that he sees deer grazing along some of the fences in the spring but that most of the wildlife consists of turkeys and red-tailed hawks. Deer are, however, an indication of mountain lion activity, according to Orr. “If deer are present, mountain lions are present,” Orr said. When a male mountain lion hunts, he typically has an area of 100 square miles, Orr said. There are currently between 4,000 and 6,000 mountain lions in California, according to Orr. That number is small when compared with the black bear population, which numbers between 30,000 and 35,000, Orr said. The presence of mountain lions in the Auburn Ravine area would come as no surprise, Orr said, stressing that the felines are very reclusive and shy. They are, he said, typically more afraid of people than people are of them. Nevertheless, they do pose a threat to some areas, and Orr described what to do if a bear or a mountain lion is encountered. The first thing, Orr said, is not to run. If you run, you are acting like prey, Orr said, who advised facing the animal, making noise, throwing rocks and picking up small children or pets. Make yourself look big, and if you are attacked, fight back, Orr added. There are some precautions to make visits from predatory animals less frequent and less damaging when they occur. For mountain lions, Orr recommended not feeding deer, as it is not only illegal in California but it attracts mountain lions. He added that no one should leave pets or small children outside, sturdy shelters should be built for sheep and goats, and no one should hike, bike or jog alone. When it comes to bears, Orr suggested keeping garbage in bear-proof containers, picking up tree fruit – a common food source for bears – and never approaching the bears or picking up cubs. “People just need to take some of these common-sense precautions,” Orr said. “Certainly, bears are spotted on occasion in areas like Lincoln and definitely mountain lions,” Orr said. “People going down there need to be aware,” Woodcock said. “The American River has signs, and I’d like to see the city put some signs up. Not everyone realizes the dog park is in the middle of a nature preserve, and we need to coexist with the wild animals. Dusk and dawn are when they’re out hunting.”