WOODBRIDGE — Woodbridge residents with backyards adjacent to the wilderness area say the latest sighting of a mountain lion in the area doesn’t worry them.
“There was one reported about a year ago,” resident Gary Allen said. “Even then we just brought the dog in at night. What I don’t understand is why people continue to go in there if they know there’s a mountain lion.”
The San Joaquin County Parks and Recreation Department last week closed the Woodbridge Wilderness Area indefinitely after users reported seeing and hearing a mountain lion in the park.
Allen and his wife live a few houses away from the entrance to the wilderness area entrance, and he said it’s not unusual to hear a mountain lion had been sighted inside the park. He said people report seeing mountain lions every few years or so.
“Doesn’t really bother us.,” he said. “It makes my wife a little nervous with the dog, but we typically don’t let him out of the house on his own this time of year anyway.”
Neighbor Nancy Phillips said there’s always concern among Woodbridge residents that a mountain lion could venture into yards or the street.
However, she said because many residents know the animals make the wilderness area home, they don’t give the animals much thought.
She said if she had small children at home, that would give her cause for concern.
“I know they won’t attack people unless they’re provoked,” Phillips said. “And (the county) has signs up in the park telling people mountain lions are in the area. (The City of Lodi) has the same signs up at Lodi Lake.”
San Joaquin County Parks Administrator Judy Vasbinder said it is unknown when the department will reopen the wilderness area. She said her staff is currently holding meetings to determine when and how to reopen the park.
Vasbinder said the animal sighting occurred over the Veterans Day weekend, and that people walking through the park actually heard and saw the mountain lion.
“They then reported it to the Sheriff’s cadet on duty there,” she said. “The cadet did a walkthrough of the wilderness area, spotted some tracks, and out of caution we closed the park indefinitely.”
This was the second sighting of a mountain lion in a month, Vasbinder said, as people reported seeing an animal about two weeks prior to Veterans Day weekend.
Vasbinder said mountain lion sightings in the park are not new, as the parks department has posted signs at the wilderness area entrance warning users that the animal is known to frequent the area.
She said a sighting is reported once every couple of years, but did not know when the last sighting in the wilderness area had been reported.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, the mountain lion’s habitat is not confined to hilly or mountainous regions.
The animal — also known as the cougar, puma, panther or catamount — makes it home anywhere where there is shelter and prey. That includes mountains, forests, deserts and wetlands, the NWF said.
Mountain lions usually hunt at night, according to the NWF, often lying in wait or silently stalking its prey before pouncing. The animal typically preys on deer, but is known to hunt smaller animals, as well as insects.
The mountain lion is a large, tan cat with a whitish-grey stomach and chest, with black markings on the tips of its tail, the ears and snout, the NWF said. Male mountain lions generally weigh between 115 to 220 pounds, while females weigh between 64 and 141 pounds, the NWF said.
In addition, mountain lions cannot roar, the NWF said. Instead, they growl, shriek, hiss and purr, much like domesticated house cats. They are also territorial and solitary, the NWF said.
Peter Tira, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said there was no need to remove the mountain lion, because it is living in its natural habitat.
“The mountain lion is exactly where a mountain lion should be,” Tira said. “Typically, we would only get involved if a mountain lion wanders into a residential neighborhood, or goes near a school. But at this time there’s no need for action.”
Over the 2019 Memorial Day weekend, a 4-year-old boy was attacked by an 80-pound female mountain lion on a trail in the Rancho Pensaquitos Canyon Preserve near San Diego.
The boy suffered non-life threatening head wounds, and DFW officials shot and killed the animal, according to San Diego’s NBC news station.
However, Tira said it is very rare that a mountain lion would attack a human.
“We always advise precautions when people hike in places like this,” he said. “Don’t run from one and trigger a prey response and don’t turn your bank on them. Raise your voice, start yelling, throw rocks at them. Just let it know you’re not a small or quiet creature it can attack.”
Tira added if anyone sees or hears a mountain lion, it is best to simply walk away slowly and report it to authorities.