Calaveras Enterprise

Mountain lion sightings, escaped debris fires spark action




Mountain Lions have been spotted in Mokelumne Hill. Courtesy photo/CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

Mountain Lions have been spotted in Mokelumne Hill. Courtesy photo/CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

Multiple sightings of a mountain lion in the Mokelumne Hill area have caused local officials to ask state wildlife for assistance while fire officials shared concerns about rising temperatures.

This past week, mountain lion sightings were reported in and around Lockeford, Acampo, Lodi and also in Milpitas, which led local officials in those areas to remind their residents to remain vigilant and keep pets indoors as wildlife trackers worked to potentially trap the predator(s), if spotted.

Concerns have been heightened in recent weeks since the death of two brothers who were attacked and one was fatally injured by a mountain lion in El Dorado County while they were out antler hunting.

Agricultural Commissioner Jesse Fowler told the Enterprise Friday, “The (U.S. Department of Agriculture) wildlife specialist we contract with is aware of the situation and actively working with California Fish and Wildlife to resolve it.” When asked for additional details, she stated there were no updates or photos at that point for public release.

Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Greg Stark told the Enterprise that his office received several informal reports and was cooperating with partnering agencies.

Fowler pointed out that residents should be aware of how to report mountain lion sightings through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) hotline for nonurgent wildlife reports at (916) 358-2917.

She added that its website has a helpful informational HWC toolkit for several animal species at: wildlife.ca.gov/HWC and also noted that residents could access the online Wildlife Incident Reporting System at: apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir

Stark said that to reach the Calaveras County contracted USDA wildlife specialist for advice and/or assistance with local wildlife conflicts, it would also be appropriate to call the county agriculture office at (209) 754-6504, which is available weekdays during normal office hours, excluding holidays.

Stark shared tips from the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office on avoiding mountain lions on the trail or in the backcountry, as follows:

Even at a distance, a brief glimpse should be cause for alarm. Though the cougar is most likely to leave the area, you should group together and travel with great caution.

Make your presence known. Make noise, sing, talk loudly, or wear a bell. Avoid walking or hiking alone. Travel with a group, if possible.

Watch children closely and never let them run ahead or lag behind on the trail. Talk to children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.

Hike during daylight hours and stay on established trails.

Watch for signs of mountain lion use along the trail; scat, claw marks, scratch piles usually made of grass, dirt, pine needles and leaves.

Stay far away from kittens; their mother is nearby

Select a campsite away from thick brush, rock overhangs and cliffs, and animal trails.

Avoid taking pets as they are easy prey and may attract mountain lions.

Do not leave pets or pet food outside and unattended while in camp, especially at dawn and dusk. Pets can attract mountain lions into developed areas.

If there are repeated sightings, be prepared to aggressively defend yourself and others. Be alert and on guard for the remainder of your hike.

In the event of an encounter with a mountain lion, best practices are as follows:

If you spot a mountain lion and the animal is unaware of you, alter your route so that you will move away from its area.

Never approach a mountain lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens.

Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape.

Do not run; remain calm, hold your ground or back away slowly.

Continue facing the mountain lion, and maintain eye contact.

Do all you can to appear larger; stand upright, raise your arms, raise your walking stick and open your jacket.

If you have small children or pets with you, try to pick them up without turning away or bending over.

Never bend over or crouch down, avoid looking like a fourlegged prey animal. Again, do not bend over to pick up a rock or stick off the ground as this action may trigger a pounce response in a mountain lion.

If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice and throw objects like the water bottle in your hand; the goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself.

Try to remain standing to protect your head and neck.

If attacked, fight back!! Use to nearly 1,300 wildfires. Along with banning residential burning, fire officials are reminding residents that it is time to make sure you have at least 100 feet of defensible space around homes and buildings in the event of wildfire and be prepared for possible evacuations should one break out in your vicinity.

Officials noted that the burn permit suspension does not apply to campfires within organized campgrounds or on private property as long as they are safely maintained so they do not spark a fire incident. Campfire permits are locally available at fire stations or online at PreventWildfireCA.org.

Prescribed burns are still being conducted, officials added, such as the one the Cal Fire Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit slated for the purpose of reducing hazardous fuels in the vicinity of Silver Rapids Road and Vista Del Lago in Rancho Calaveras. The burn was scheduled for Sunday, June 2, and Tuesday, June 4, igniting between the hours of 8 and 10 a.m. each day with expectations that operations would run for six to eight hours each day.

In other local fire district news, Dickinson shared that Calaveras Consolidated Fire chaplain Dick Brown and his comfort dog Rodney are continuing to support first responders through assistance activities and a soon-to-debut website that are part of a recently established 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Paws of Love.

“We have completed all the paperwork with the county, state, and the IRS,” Brown said, adding that so far he has had the opportunity to present the ministry to a few organizations, sharing the group’s mission statement: to serve all first responders who pay the emotional cost of their service to others. While Brown acquired a website domain name that is not yet active, he said it would be up and running very soon at: www.pawsofloveheals.com. rocks, jackets, sticks to turn away the mountain lions.

Report any mountain lion encounters or incidents to the local ranger district or Fish and Wildlife office.

Fires spark burn permit suspension

In the wake of this past season’s wet winter and late seasonal additions to the snowpack, and with rising temperatures browning out the amply growing vegetation, Cal Fire Tuolumne-Calaveras officials announced that as of Wednesday, June 5, all outdoor residential burn permits were suspended for the season.

“With hotter and drier weather, lower and mid-elevation areas are becoming prone to unwanted fires,” stated Unit Chief Nick Casci. He advised residents to use alternatives like chipping or green waste disposal for landscape debris like branches and leaves.

Last Wednesday, Calaveras Consolidated Fire Chief Rich Dickinson reported that aggressive work by fire units led to the forward progress being stopped on a vegetation fire near Stallion Way and Fowler Peak in Angels Camp dubbed the Hunter Fire. The blaze broke out just after 4 p.m. and grew to about an acre in size before air and ground units were able to snuff it out. At press time, the cause of the incident was still under investigation.

Two days earlier, firefighters from Calaveras Consolidated and Cal Fire responded to a vegetation fire on Silver Rapids Road, near Hogan Dam Road. That blaze was contained to a quarter-acre, according to Dickinson, who added that the cause was from a property owner who in the course of installing a gate and cutting a metal fence post, sparked a fire that spread to surrounding vegetation.

“A reminder to all, when cutting or grinding metal near dry vegetation, clear the vegetation around the work site and have a fire extinguisher readily available,” Dickinson recommended.

Cal-Co Fire was among the many responders to a Sunday evening fire incident near Flood Road in San Joaquin County that evolved into a 45-acre blaze before it was contained hours later. The cause of that incident is also still under investigation.

So far this year, Cal-Fire and other fire units have responded

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