Lions can be beastly

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I have seen mountain lions more than once in Malibu, including a mated pair. It is a privilege to live in nature and I feel a reverence for the deer, roadrunners, bobcats, coyotes and myriad of other creatures many of us see outside our windows. But with the magic comes the reality that mountain lions eat humans and may require a different wildlife management strategy.

An article in last week’s Los Angeles Times reported there have been 45 mountain lion attacks in the past decade in the U.S. and Canada resulting in several deaths. An increasing frequency of attacks on humans at the wildland urban interface is typically preceded by reportings of backyard attacks on domestic animals. Mountain lions are particularly likely to view children as prey and every parent should be aware of this when showing their children the splendors of nature in our area.

According to the article, Susan and Donald Small had taken their children for a hike at a park at the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. As 5-year-old Laura waded in a shallow stream to catch tadpoles, a mountain lion grabbed her by the head and vanished with her in its mouth. When they found Laura, her right eye had been sliced open by the three-inch long teeth of the lion, her skull was crushed and a portion of her brain had been liquefied by the trauma.

After spending some time researching mountain lion attacks, I learned that mountain lions regard people as prey, stalk hikers, bicyclers and joggers while camouflaged in brush and can attack from as far as 40 feet, typically striking at the neck. The National Park Service, State Parks and County agencies have embarked on a cooperative effort with the South Coast Wildlands Project to restore a healthy population of mountains lions to the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. The Recreation Area was established by Congress as an urban park not a Wilderness Area. To avert tragedy, the mountain lion breeding program scientists have undertaken in Malibu and surrounding areas should be reconsidered until these agencies can assure the safety of visitors to the park and residents.

Anne Hoffman