PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 14, 2022) — After reports of mountain lion activity in the natural areas around the Presidio of Monterey, garrison officials stress that one safety measure is critical if community members encounter one: Don’t run.
Joseph Alfonso, safety manager for U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, said running can stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase, so it is necessary for us to overcome our human instinct to run from a large, predatory animal.
“Do not turn your back on a mountain lion; back up slowly,” Alfonso said. “Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms; open your jacket if you’re wearing one; wave your arms slowly and speak in a firm, loud voice.”
Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, especially in places where they have plenty of prey species to eat. Mountain lions like to eat deer, and they are abundant in areas around the Presidio of Monterey, but that does not rule out the possibility of an attack, so it is important for community members to know the basics of mountain lion safety.
Alfonso said that mountain lions, also called cougars, can run as fast as 50 mph, so it’s vital for people to understand they cannot outrun a mountain lion. The fastest human ever, Usain Bolt, has a record speed of nearly 27 mph, according to Britannica encyclopedia. Even he wouldn’t last long.
Also, do not crouch down, Alfonso said, because a standing human does not resemble a mountain lion’s natural prey.
It is also important to note that climbing a tree to escape will not help, Alfonso said. Mountain lions can climb trees quickly.
In fact, Tania Leisten, chief of the garrison’s environmental division, said mountain lions like to hang out in trees, so people should maintain situational awareness in forested areas and look up.
Running for exercise is a common activity around Monterey and the former Fort Ord, and Alfonso said people should avoid running alone, especially at dawn or dusk.
Leisten said runners should also be especially careful in forested areas.
In addition, parents should stay near their children, talk to them about the importance of not running away from mountain lions, and pick up small children in the presence of a mountain lion. Mountain lions see children as easier prey because they are smaller, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Of the 22 documented mountain lion attacks in California since 1986, half of them have been on children ages 10 and younger, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife statistics.
The same set of statistics does not list any attacks happening in Monterey County during that time. A possible reason could be the large population of deer in Monterey.
Leisten said mountain lion attacks on humans are not typical, especially if their prey species are abundant. Mountain lions mostly like to eat deer, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and there are plenty in the Monterey area.
Leisten said her office had not received a report of a mountain lion possibly killing a fawn on post recently, but it has happened in the past.
Mountain lion sightings are common in Monterey, and the Presidio of Monterey usually receives one or two sightings annually, Leisten said. They are usually in September through November.
The sightings often take place in or next to wooded areas, Leisten said, and it is likely the most recent sighting, which is unconfirmed, took place in a forested area near the Post Exchange and Building 630 on the Presidio of Monterey.
Most of the garrison’s documented mountain lion sightings have been in the fall season, Leisten said, and sightings are most common at dusk and dawn.
Alfonso said signs that a mountain lion has been in the area include tracks, scat, scratches and claw marks on felled trees or the lower part of standing trees.
To keep mountain lions away from residences, people should bring pets inside in the evenings, Alfonso said. “Also bring in their food and water as mountain lions often seek out sources of water and food, especially during the drought,” he said.
Mountain lion territory can range from 30 to 125 square miles, Alfonso said.
Bobcats are another species of wild cat in the Monterey area, and Leisten said it is easy to distinguish them from mountain lions because mountain lions are much larger, have a long tail that touches the ground, and are a solid color when they are adults. Only young mountain lions have fur markings.
Bobcats, meanwhile, have short tails and fur markings even as adults, Leisten said.
In general, the safety rules for mountain lions are the same as for bobcats, Leisten said. The only likely reason a bobcat would attack a human is if their young were threatened.
For more information on mountain lion safety in California, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Mountain-Lion For more information on living with wildlife in California, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Living-with-Wildlife#550022424-who-do-i-call-to-report-sick-injured-or-orphaned-wildlife To report a mountain lion sighting, call the PoM Police Department at (831) 242-7851 and the USAG PoM Environmental Division at (831) 242-4132.