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Warning: Salesforce CEO spots Pac Heights mountain lion

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Urban big cats are rare but can be dangerous

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reported via Twitter that a mountain lion appeared outside of his San Francisco house on Saturday, most likely having ranged down out of the nearby Presidio.

Benioff linked to an eight second clip uploaded to his YouTube channel, which does indeed show a large kitty taking a stroll plain as day.

The CEO lives in a $28 million mansion on Billionaires Row, but he also owns another house on nearby Jackson Street. Either way, this foray into tony Pacific Heights makes the cat in question among the city’s most refined felines.

Although mountain lions sometimes stray into city limits all over the Bay Area—one popped up on the UC Berkeley campus last September—it’s unusual for them to appear in San Francisco.

The last reported incident was in 2015, when another cat with a taste for high-end real estate appeared in the Sea Cliff, Lake Merced, and Jefferson Square Park areas. But that was the first confirmed sighting in the city proper since 1908.

At the time, SF Animal Control spokesperson Deb Campbell said that a big cat appearing in explicitly urban areas is probably a juvenile who left home to find its own territory and wandered out of normal puma haunts.

That 2015 beast vanished without incident after its fourth city sighting, presumably off to greener pastures, like so many San Francisco transplants before it.

Animal Control was not immediately available to comment on whether anyone else has reported similar sightings in the Presidio area now.

Despite their fearsome predatory prowess, mountain lions are generally afraid of humans. A recent study by naturalists at UC Santa Cruz found that the sound of a recorded human voice was enough to spook California mountain lions away from freshly killed prey.

According to the Washington Post:

“We wanted to test directly if pumas fear the most benign form of human disturbance, our sound,” [researcher Justine Smith] continued. “That would tell us if they actually fear humans themselves.”

The results were pretty unequivocal. Nearly every lion [....] ran away immediately, and more than half of the frightened lions never returned to finish their meal.

Still, it goes without saying that close encounters with big cats can be dangerous. Previously, SF Animal Control advised anyone who comes face to face with a mountain lion to maintain eye contract, make lots of noise, throw things if the animal approaches, and not to attempt to run or play dead—which the cat might interpret as an invitation to give chase or help itself to a free meal.