The San Marcos Police Department reported two sightings of mountain lions in the Purgatory Creek area in the past month. City officials are urging citizens to avoid culverts and drainage areas where they suspect the mountain lions of patrolling.
The sightings have occurred at dusk, around the time when the creatures begin to emerge and hunt. The mountain lion is thought to be using the culverts and drainage ditches to cross impeding roadways. Graffiti found in these areas suggest that people may also occasionally be present, introducing the danger of an accidental encounter.
The city stated in a press release that people frequently mistake bobcats and house cats for small mountain lions. Mountain lions can grow to be seven feet long with shoulders standing at 20-30 inches and can weigh up to 150 pounds. A 200-pound lion was killed near Fort Worth in March. City officials speculate that the mountain lion spotted in the area is juvenile, which — according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Mountain Lion Field Guide — may weigh between 50 and 100 pounds and travel with an adult lioness.
Neighborhood Director Jeff Caldwell said that while the animals are beautiful, they are potentially dangerous. Caldwell said citizens should be safe if they follow some simple guidelines.
“Mountain lions are an important part of the Central Texas ecosystem and are beautiful animals,” Caldwell said. “While mountain lions try to avoid people whenever possible, it’s important to be aware of safety measures you can take if you encounter one.”
Mountain lions generally avoid human interaction and do not identify humans as prey; however, they tend to be attracted to pets. In the event of a mountain lion encounter, the city encourages these guidelines:
- 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 the animal.
- 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.
- Secure your pets. Don’t let your pets run loose, which is already prohibited by City Ordinance. Keep them inside or on your property.