Mountain lion photographed near Mount Shasta home: what to do if you see one

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
This mountain lion was seen in the Jefferson and Adams Drive area of Mount Shasta at about 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2021.

Photos of a mountain lion resting in a patch of manzanita near a Mount Shasta home have unsettled some in the community, although wildlife biologist Axel Hunnicutt said a person is statistically 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion.

Hunnicutt, who works in Siskiyou County for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, encourages people to report mountain lion sightings online, by phone or by email. He said he hasn't received any recent reports of a mountain lion being seen regularly in the Mt. Shasta area, but acknowledged that Siskiyou County is mountain lion habitat and sightings are not uncommon, even in more urban areas.

Mount Shasta's Seema Amin said she was at a friend's house in the Jefferson and Adams Drive area watching a movie on Thursday evening, Sept. 2 when her dog jumped into the window and started barking at something. When she investigated, Amin didn't see a deer, as expected: it was a mountain lion.

This mountain lion was seen in the Jefferson and Adams Drive area of Mount Shasta, resting in manzanita, at about 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2021.

"I took some photos, then (the mountain lion) crouched down," Amin said. It was about 7:30 p.m. and still light outside. She and her friend didn't see the mountain lion move before darkness fell, so they took turns watching their dogs carefully when they let them outside that night on the other side of the house.

Mountain lions: 'Masters of stealth' 

Hunnicutt said people may see mountain lions in their neighborhoods because their main prey source is deer, as well as hares and rabbits, which tend to congregate in residential areas.

"Masters of stealth, it’s most often the choice of these cryptic carnivores whether we see them or not," said Hunnicutt. "While the observation of a lion may be a shock to some, those with game cameras on their properties are more likely to know that mountain lions often are on the edge or even move through our neighborhoods."

Here's what to do if you encounter a mountain lion

Although mountain lion attacks are rare, interactions do still occur and Hunnicutt shared the following recommendations in the case you do encounter one:

  • Do not hike, bike, or jog alone. Do not hike, bike, or jog at dawn, dusk, or at night.
  • Stay alert on trails. Keep a close watch on small children and off leash pets.
  • Never approach a mountain lion. Give them an escape route.
  • Do not run. Stay calm. Do not turn your back. Face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger.
  • Do not crouch down or bend over.

People with pets or livestock should also take these precautions to successfully avoid mountain lion interactions:

  • Deer-proof your property to avoid attracting a lion's main food source.
  • Remove dense vegetation from around the home to reduce hiding spaces.
  • Install outdoor lighting to make it difficult for mountain lions to approach unseen.
  • Secure livestock and outdoor large pets in sturdy, covered shelters at night.
  • Keep small pets and children inside during dusk, dawn, and night.
  • Always remember – Mountain lions are wild animals and their behavior may be unpredictable (like any wildlife).

How to report a mountain lion sighting

There are several ways to report a mountain lion sighting:

  • Online at the CDFW's Wildlife Incidents Reporting page: https://apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir 
  • By calling Hunnicutt directly at 530-598-6820
  • By calling the CDFW's regional office at 530-225-2300
  • Emailing askregion1@wildlife.ca.gov
  • If the incident is an emergency the CDFW recommends people call 911 immediately, However if it’s a non-emergency they can also call 1-888-334-2258.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.