PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- Recent mountain lion sightings serve as a reminder to local residents to remain vigilant in keeping an eye on pets. Why are there mountain lions in the area?

It's not because mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, like humans. In fact, according to the California Department of Fish and Game website ( they are solitary and elusive, and their nature is to avoid humans.

The website explains that it comes down to the deer seen roaming around the area.

With more than half of California mountain lion habitat, and mountain lions generally existing wherever deer are found, their presence in the area makes sense.

Although the Department of Fish and Game advised the public that the animals were displaying normal behavior, caution is warranted.

Although mountain lions, which range from 5 to 8 feet in length and weigh between 75 and 250 pounds, prefer to feed on deer, they are also known to prey on pets and livestock and in rare instances humans.

"Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare," said Lenore Grover-Bullington, environmental division chief in Presidio public works, reiterating that their nature is to avoid humans. "It's probably similar to the chance of being attacked by a shark."

Landowners whose pets fall prey to mountain lions may kill them once they obtain the required depredation permit. However, this rule does not apply to residents living in housing in OMC, La Mesa and the Presidio.

Instead, residents in military housing should contact the Presidio police who have the authority to request that the California Department of Fish and Game send out a federal trapper to remove the animal.

According to the CDFG website, mountain lions that threaten people are immediately killed. Problem mountain lions cannot be relocated since they are territorial creatures. Relocating a mountain lion to another's territory could result in "deadly conflicts with other mountain lions," according to the CDFG website.

"They really don't like being with humans," said Grover-Bullington. "They're solitary animals and don't look for conflict."

Residents should take the following preventive measures to avoid possible encounters with mountain lions:
• Don't feed wild animals
• Deer-proof landscape by avoiding plants deer like to eat.
• Supervise small children or pets outside
• Keep outdoor spaces well lit and remove or trim low vegetation to maintain visibility
• Don't travel alone in undeveloped areas, especially in the late afternoon through dusk when mountain lions tend to hunt.

If a mountain lion is encountered, people should not approach it. Also people should not run away as this may trigger the animal's instinct to chase. Instead one should face the animal, try to appear as big as possible by raising the arms and speak loudly until the mountain lion leaves. If the mountain lion does not leave then throw rocks or sticks at it.

If children are near, Grover-Bullington advises picking them up without crouching down or bending over. A person may look like prey to a mountain lion if they crouch or bend over.

After an encounter residents should report the sighting to the Presidio police, said Grover-Bullington. Witnesses should include the date, time, location where the sighting or encounter occurred and a description of the mountain lion.

"The distinguishing factor on a mountain lion is its long tail," said Grover-Bullington. "Sometimes mountain lions are confused with bobcats; except bobcats have short tails and adults retain a spotted coloration pattern."