NORTH FORK — Residents in the North Fork area are once again reporting the loss of pets and livestock due to mountain lion predation.
Kat Rudd, a resident of Three Springs, contacted Fish & Wildlife due to a brazen attack on Apr. 3, as several people were enjoying an evening just outside a home on the organic farm on Road 225 about five miles east of town.
“A large mountain lion boldly charged through a carport area that’s attached to a house and took a domestic cat that was in a well lit area with multiple people right there,” says Kat. “There was music playing, lights on and a fire blazing in a fire pit. The mountain lion went right through the people to take the cat. It was an outside porch-like seating area with table and chairs.”
Kat says that over the past few months several other indoor/outdoor cats have gone missing and are suspected to have fallen prey to a mountain lion on the property. That type of activity seemed to stop for a time when a different mountain lion was destroyed and was believed to have been the culprit.
“That was several months ago, and that big cat had been reported to be hitting livestock,” says Kat. “This one appears to be even more dangerous, and my larger concern is that any mountain lion bold enough to charge through a group of people just to take a house cat down is just one step away from crossing the line further to possibly go after small children or toddlers.”
Kat reports that some nearby residents have also been seeing a large cat lurking about very close to their homes.
“In talking with other neighbors and locals, they too have had dogs and cats disappearing,” she says. “Last fall the Alpaca Boutique owner shared with me how a mountain lion had killed one of her alpacas but didn’t eat any of it — a similar account to a doe deer was taken down in our fenced and gated garden area a few months ago. Again, not overly surprising except the mountain lion didn’t eat its kill. It also wasn’t a typical clean kill either. The lion clearly hit the doe on its hind quarters with its claws and hit an artery. There was no neck, head, or any other trauma to the deer other than the hind haunches lacerations. I understand the drought affecting food and water sources for the wildlife, but this isn’t some emaciated big cat.”
Kat says she also crossed paths with another local woman last fall down around Redinger Lake who shared an account of how a mountain lion charged up onto her porch and snatched one of her small dogs in broad daylight.
When she moved to the farm last April, Kat says there were opossums that would come around and get into the cat food.
“There were regular sightings of skunk, and the raccoons would get into their shenanigans. There was a visiting bobcat that you could see practically any time. But since the taking and disappearing of our domestic house cats, I have not seen any possum, skunk, raccoons, squirrel or any of the other usual and typical critter sightings on the property.”
Kat went online to the Fish & Wildlife website to report the most recent incident, but says it was not working correctly, so she notified them directly but has not yet heard back.
In another location earlier this week, a woman lost two goats when they were killed by a lion, and is now nursing a third which was injured in the attacks. Her home is on Hadley Road, just south of Bass Fork Minit Market on Road 200 near Road 221.
On Monday night, Apr. 4, a lion climbed over the five-foot fenced enclosure next to the barn and killed a large pack goat.
“At first I didn’t know what had killed it, and its horns were tangled in the chain link fence,” says the owner. “I thought he got caught up in the fence and his death was accidental, and then something was just feeding on him. He was just chewed on a bit, not eaten.”
The resident says she never heard anything during the night, and has never had any trouble with mountain lions in the seven years she has owned the goats, which were purchased to help keep the brush down on the property, and are loved as pets.
“The goats have always run around in fenced areas on the property during the day, and in the pen by the barn at night, and I’ve never had any problem.”
On Tuesday night the lion came back and killed a second goat, this time “slaughtering it.” A third goat was also injured, and may lose an eye. The owner called Tim Kroeker, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologist assigned to Madera County, who came out and confirmed that it was a lion kill and issued her a depredation permit.
On Wednesday night, there was evidence that the lion had returned, but the goats were safely closed up in the barn, and the big cat left.
On Friday, the resident spoke with Federal Trapper Randy Partch, but by then she had called someone to come over with a backhoe and dig a hole to bury the goats, so there was no bait for the trap.
“Without the carcass, they can’t set a trap,” says the owner. “I didn’t know that. So don’t bury it, call Randy first.”
The woman says these are very large goats, bred for packing, and weighing over 175 pounds, with the largest standing nearly eight feet tall on its hind legs. She says the lion took the two smallest of the six, and she now shuts them up inside the barn at night.
“All the remaining goats and all the cats and dogs are traumatized, and it appears the lion is still in the area,” she says, noting that when she walks her dogs in the evening, she now carries a gun. “I don’t want to shoot it, but I will if necessary.”
Dan Fidler, Fresno Unit Wildlife Biologist for the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife, suggest the height of a fence to protect livestock should be 8-foot and above.
“Animals taken during lion predation events are usually small livestock such and sheep and goats,” says Fidler. “The next most predated would be and cats and dogs. Best practices for having these animals in lion country include penning or otherwise housing animals at night, and installing tall fencing in areas that livestock are kept.
“Best practices for personal safety include taking hikes with friends, avoiding long solo walks at night, keeping children that are playing outside within ear and eye distance, and trimming heavy bushes around your property that can serve as cover for lions.”
To contact California Fish & Wildlife call 559-243-4005.
To contact Federal Trapper Randy Partch call 209-769-4949.
“When it comes to mountain lions, you live in their country,” Partch reminds everyone, “and they make up the rules.”