Lodi city officials spent Tuesday morning patrolling the Lodi Lake Nature Area after a citizen reported seeing a mountain lion around dusk Monday.
The park’s nature area remained closed throughout the morning as a precaution until city staff could post a sign at the entrance warning visitors of the sighting and suggesting visitors not to walk the paths alone.
Officials, however, found no evidence of a mountain lion.
Mountain lions have been spotted at Lodi Lake before, said Jeff Hood, Lodi’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director. But he hasn’t heard of a sighting in at least 15 years.
“They have been seen there in the past,” he said. “We’re not sure if this was a real sighting or not.”
But it’s likely that the park’s visitor mistook another animal for a mountain lion, said biologist Amy Rodrigues with the Mountain Lion Foundation in Sacramento. In fact, 90 percent of mountain lion sightings turn out to be false reports, Rodrigues said.
“Typically they’re seeing another animal — a deer, domestic dog or type of cat,” Rodrigues said. “Something else is moving quickly in the brush and more often than not people are mistaking it for a mountain lion.”
If a mountain lion did venture from rural country to the more populated Lodi Lake area, it was likely tracking prey, said Lynn Cullens, director of communications for the Mountain Lion Foundation.
Mountain lions typically hunt deer and elk, and Hood said he spotted six deer in the nature area Tuesday morning.
California is home to between 4,000 and 6,000 mountain lions, and chances are low that one would attack a human, said Kyle Orr, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. There have only been 16 verified attacks on people in California since 1890, with six being fatal.
“Mountain lions attacking human beings are very rare,” Orr said. “While mountain lions are top-of-the-line predators, they are elusive creatures and they tend to avoid humans.”
Hearing of a possible mountain lion sighting didn’t appear to worry neighbors living close to Lodi Lake.
Dennis Seibel, who’s lived close to the lake for 21 years, said he’s seen foxes, skunks, raccoons and deer near his home, but never a mountain lion. The recent possible sighting won’t make him take any additional precautions.
“I’m not real surprised (there was a sighting),” he said. “It’s possible.”
Sherrill Adamska, who was babysitting her two small grandchildren on Tuesday afternoon near the lake, said the children are never allowed outside without supervision. So she’s not concerned about a possible sighting.
Cullens recommends that neighboring residents take several precautions, including bringing pets inside, until the sightings have subsided. For more information about steps to take when spotting a mountain lion, visit www.mountainlion.org.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.