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Notice: Mountain lion spotted near UC Berkeley

Although timid around humans, California big cats should be treated with caution

Potrait of a mountain lion in profile.          By The Len

Warning: UC Berkeley Police Department says that a mountain lion popped up near Lawrence Berkeley Lab Sunday night, briefly straying into a nearby parking lot.

“The mountain lion was not aggressive and disappeared down the hillside,” the department said in a Monday statement, reported in the East Bay Times. “The area was searched, but the mountain lion was not found.”

In a similar there-and-gone sighting two weeks ago, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reported a mountain lion cruising down the sidewalk near his Pacific Heights home.

A few days later, the Department of Fish and Wildlife tranquilized a mountain lion near the Diamond Heights Safeway.

If it was the same one, it’s the second reported big cat to stray into San Francisco since 2015, but only the third since 1908. East Bay mountain lions are more common but still an unusual sight.

Despite their potent predatory prowess, California mountain lions are usually shy and retiring around human beings.

According to Fish and Wildlife, there have been only 14 confirmed attacks of mountain lions on humans since 1986, and only three of those fatal. The state of California recorded only nine fatal attacks “since the turn of the last century.”

For perspective, according to data collected by the University of Iowa, more Californians die from hitting animals (mainly deer) on the highway each year than mountain lions have killed in the last century-plus.

In a 2016 experiment, UC Santa Cruz researchers observed that, although mountain lions will hunt within a few feet of human habitations, collared cats fled at the sound of human voices 83 percent of the time.

Even so, East Bay residents should use extreme caution in the event of a mountain lion close encounter. UCPD warns:

-Do not approach a lion, especially if it is feeding or with its young. Most lions will avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

-If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.

-Fight back if attacked. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, or bare hands.