Second Mountain Lion Sighting in Los Osos Neighborhood

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

December 4, 2023

 Footage from a trail camera shows a mountain lion about a block from the El Moro Elfin Forest Nature Preserve. Photo by Gene ‘Skip’ Rotstein

An adult mountain lion was captured on a trail camera in the front yard of a home in Los Osos. This is the second reported sighting of a lion in the area since March of this year.

Again, the feline, which can be 60 to180 pounds and up to 8-feet long, was spotted in the 1100 block of 8th St., about a block from the El Moro Elfin Forest Nature Preserve.

“I notified County Parks and Fish and Wildlife,” Gene “Skip” Rotstein, a retired high school biology teacher and board member of the Friends of El Moro Elfin Forest, told Estero Bay News. His cameras captured the first pawed and clawed animal eight months ago.

“County Parks will probably put a lion [warning] poster at each Elfin Forest entrance. My guess is it is the same lion as in March. Fish and Wildlife or State Parks probably knows which lion it is because this is probably the only one in a pretty big area.”

State Parks and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife could not be reached prior to deadline.

The second, or perhaps the same, lion making an appearance is verification to Skip that our space is part of their territory.

“The foggy night video in March was pretty much a ‘proof of existence’ video,” “The night of November 22, 2023, was crystal clear.  The lion’s walking pace enabled the three cameras, spaced twenty to fifty feet apart to capture every detail — coming, going and sideways.”

Caution and respect should always be foremost in the wilderness with any animal, but mountain lions are more common than the weekend hiker might be aware. That is not a reason to panic, it has likely always been the case.

Freddy Otte, a biologist for the City of San Luis Obispo, issued a news release earlier this year following a report of a mountain lion grabbing a leashed dog in the Prefumo Creek area and taking off with it, dragging the owner in the process. The dog died in the incident, and the lion was successfully trapped, fitted with a GPS tracker and relocated outside of the city. 

“It’s important to remember that we live in a region that is home to a variety of wildlife, including mountain lions,” Otte said. “These majestic creatures have been roaming these hills and valleys for centuries, and while they are a natural part of our environment, it’s understandable that the recent sightings and attack on a pet may be causing some concern. Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, and it’s even rarer for them to occur in urban areas.”

California Department of Fish and Wildlife defines a mountain lion attack as an incident resulting in direct physical contact between a human and a mountain lion resulting in physical injury or death to the person. An attack is verified only when a physician, law enforcement officer or CDFW personnel determine the injuries were caused by a mountain lion. The list of attacks, located at wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Mountain-Lion/Attacks, show people from 5 to 70 years old. Since 1986, there have been 21 verified attacks in CA — four were fatal.

The big cat is known by over 40 different common names including but not limited to puma, cougar, panther, red tiger, catamount, and screamer. 

“Mountain lions inhabit diverse habitat types across California including temperate redwood forest, coniferous / deciduous forest, coastal chaparral, foothills and mountains,” The CDFW website states. “They can be found wherever native or introduced ungulates such as mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, or feral hogs are present.”

In the past, Skip and his camera have captured mice, woodrats, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, a barn owl (on the ground), a great horned owl (on the ground), deer, quail, a mallard duck, crows, innumerable small birds, a pair of grey foxes, a red fox, and a long-tailed weasel. That night the other visitors were a little scarce in the presence of the lion.

“In the 24 hours after the lion’s visit, only an injured doe walked down the game trail,” Skip said. “Coyotes, raccoons, two big bucks and even skunks were noticeable by their absence.”

Signs that a mountain lion might be in the area, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service website, include large tracks (3-5 inches wide) without claw marks; food caches, where a kill has been partially eaten and then covered with brush and dirt; scrapes in soft dirt or leaf litter, and claw marked trees and logs.

Mountain lions are classified as a ‘specially protected’ species in California following the passage of the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990.

“Increased sightings and reports of mountain lions are likely due to the increased presence of home security cameras (e.g., ring doorbells), social media, and personal trail cameras often used for hunting, wildlife photography and leisure purposes,” the CDRW website states.” Statewide mountain lion population estimates are considered stable based on the best scientific knowledge, research, and methods available.”

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