BURNEY: Two recent mountain lion sightings in town have area residents talking
BURNEY — Area residents are abuzz after several recent mountain lion sightings, including one sighting early this morning along the southern end of Marquette St, south of downtown Burney, and another seen a few blocks away several hours later.
Area residents began discussing the recent sightings earlier today, Wednesday, Aug. 22, after two different Burney residents shared posts online about their sightings. The posts stirred debate and discussion with some believing the sightings are a major point of concern related to small children and family pets, while others pointed out that wildlife sightings in and around the Intermountain area are to be expected, as small towns and cities grow into areas that were once exclusively homes to area wildlife.
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One of the sightings in the last 24 hours was shared by Burney resident, Cheryl Irwin, who posted information about her sighting around 1:30 a.m., after taking her dog out for an early morning walk.
“She kept staring up the street,” Irwin said of her basset hound and cattle dog mix, “Lily.”
Thinking Lily was possibly spying a prowler lurking in the darkness, Irwin was surprised when she spotted a mountain lion walking along the end of her residential street toward Marquette St.
“I got my dog inside and told my husband,” Irwin explained. “He walked to the end of our driveway and it was still at the end of the street by someone’s trash cans.”
Irwin explained it was “definitely” a mountain lion, saying it was “too big to be a regular cat and it had a very long tail.”
“I’m just glad my neighbors who have small dogs didn’t have them out at the time,” Irwin later told SCNS.
Several hours later, shortly after 10 a.m., Carol Thomason Beyschau reported a similar sighting, writing in a social media post, “Just a little while ago I saw a small mountain lion on my street!!!”
Beyschau believed the cat was “probably the same one” spotted several blocks away by Irwin, but her concern was that unlike Irwin’s sighting, hers happened during daylight hours. The sighting also caused Beyschau concern because of the cat’s proximity to Burney Jr. and Sr. High Schools, which she said she notified immediately after the sighting.
“I hate to be alarmist but better safe than sorry when it comes to our kiddos,” Beyschau explained.
According to wildlife officials, mountain lions generally tend to be calm, quiet, and elusive; and are most commonly found in areas with plentiful prey and adequate cover. However, with all the recent and still active wildfires burning throughout California, sightings of mountain lions, black bears, and other wildlife, have been on the rise in small towns and mountain regions throughout the NorCal area.
Mountain lions are an important part of the ecosystem, helping to keep deer and other prey populations in check, according to the National Park Service.
“Although lion attacks are rare, they are possible, as is injury from any wild animal,” NPS explained on their website. “Even so, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards.”
“There is a far greater risk, for example, of being killed in an automobile accident with a deer than of being attacked by a mountain lion,” wrote NPS.
“Typically, mountain lion sightings occur from a distance and usually around dawn or dusk … corresponding with deer activity,” NPS continued. “However, lions are unpredictable and can be dangerous.”
Despite official reassurances, the back-to-back sightings within hours caused some area residents concern, with some sharing their own sightings, as well as how best to deal with the issues and potential hazards.
Area resident Royce Hetzel, who runs several social media pages related to Burney and Intermountain area related crime, news, and information, suggested notifying Department of Fish and Game when sightings do occur, so officials can stay on top of potential issues before they become problems.
Tymber Wells also weighed in on the subject, writing online, “Yes we live in the country, this isn’t exactly new, and yes this was their home first but now human beings live here with their pets and kids too and the mountain lion being there puts people, children, and pets at risk.”
“These animals come into our neighborhoods looking for food,” Wells continued. “So in order to co-exist with these magnificent beasts we must first know that they are there; to be aware so that we can prevent anything happening to a beloved pets, children, family members, etc.”
Burney resident Deborah Lyn Burnside also responded to the posts about the recent sightings, writing, “It’s just patrolling its territory and is nothing to be alarmed about, although it’s good to be aware, and to take precautions accordingly.”
According to Burnside, she has also seen mountain lions in the area, and even spotted one on her property near Sierra Pacific Industries not long ago.
“Cougars (mountain lions) have a hunting territory of something like 100 square miles, so it’s not like this one is setting up camp on Marquette,” Burnside wrote. “He’ll move on to explore the rest of his territory soon enough.”
The following NPS guidelines can help to insure your safety:
- Do not jog or hike alone. Go in groups with adults supervising children.
- Keep children close to you. Do not allow children to play along river banks, in heavy vegetation, or alone at dawn or dusk. When hiking with children, watch them closely and never let them run ahead of you. Observations of captured wild mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children.
If you encounter a lion, remember the goals are to convince it that you are not prey and that you may be dangerous. Follow these safety tips:
- Do not approach a lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so that they don’t panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
- Do not crouch down or bend over. A human standing up is just not the right shape for a lion’s prey. Conversely, a person squatting or bending over resembles a four-legged prey animal. In mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
- Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
- Fight back if attacked. A hiker in southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
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Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 14 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.