By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Mountain lions have been spotted twice over the past week in an area near the historic "Campus on the Hill" leading to warnings from Santa Paula Police and at least one VC Alert notifying residents of the potential danger.
According to SPPD Sgt. Cody Madison, residents had reported mountain lion sightings over the past week and dispatched officers observed the cats in the area of 6th Street and East Virginia Terrace "in the early morning hours.
"Based on the officers description of size," 20 to 40 pounds, Madison said, "it is possibly the same animal. "
The last reported sighting was at about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday, an event that prompted the SPPD to request a VC Alert to numerous residents, who were warned that a cougar was reported in the area and to take appropriate safeguards.
In late January a resident of the McKevett Heights area reported seeing what they described as a "cub" in their neighborhood but no evidence was found that it was actually a mountain lion.
And at least one resident said a lion they observed last week was "full grown," which for a typical adult male would be between 110 to 180 pounds and a female 80 to 130 pounds.
With the different sizes reported it is possible a family of lions is roaming the area, which has occurred in Santa Paula in past years.
Madison offered some tips to avoid encounters with mountain lions: Confine and secure any pets (especially at night) indoors and pick up any pet food outside that could attract other animals that cougars would attack such as raccoons.
Do not leave children or pets outside unattended.
Never approach a cougar-most want to avoid humans so give the cat the time and space to steer clear of you.
Never run past or from a cougar as this may trigger their instinct to chase, but rather make eye contact and stand your ground. Pick up small children without, if possible, turning away or bending over which to the mountain lion's eye makes you appear more as an object of prey.
If you encounter a cougar, make yourself appear larger, more aggressive. Open your jacket, raise your arms, and throw stones, branches or whatever without turning away. Wave your raised arms slowly and speak slowly, firmly and loudly to disrupt and discourage predatory behavior.
Most active at dawn, dusk and at night, mountain lions can bound up to 40-feet while running, leap 15-feet up a tree, easily climb over a 12-foot fence and reach speeds at a sprint of 50 miles per hour.
If you do go out to walk do so with a companion and be prepared.
Just Wednesday a mountain lion killed a 100-pound dog in Fontana.
If you observe a mountain lion you are urged to contact the Santa Paula Police Department at 805-525-4474.
Notice which direction the lion is headed and gauge its approximate size, information that will be helpful to police.