With mountain lion sightings on the rise, the U.S. Forest Service is warning hikers to beware.
The Forest Service recently released an advisory warning for Santa Barbara County cautioning hikers of an increase in mountain lion sightings. According to a statement released by the Forest Service, reports of mountain lion sightings involved hikers on the San Ysidro and Romero Trails, located in the nearby Los Padres National Forest. In one case, a mountain lion followed a hiker until scared off by a hurled object.
California’s expanding human population has encroached on the mountain lion’s home range, leading to more confrontations with an animal described as “quiet, solitary and elusive, typically [avoiding] people,” by the California Dept. of Fish and Game.
Despite their elusive nature, the Forest Service suggests hikers in mountain lion country follow a few safety guidelines. These include avoiding hiking, biking or jogging alone, especially at dawn, dusk or night, when mountain lions are most active. If a mountain lion encounter should occur, face the animal, make noises and try to appear bigger by waving your arms and throwing rocks or other objects. And if attacked, the advisory states, fight back.
Although the Los Padres National Forest is a mountain lion habitat, attacks on humans are rare. There have only been 16 verified mountain lion attacks in California since 1890, six of which were fatal.
“Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare,” the Fish and Game Dept. said in a statement. “However, conflicts are increasing as California’s human population expands into mountain lion habitat.”