Did you know that California has an automated telephone system that calls and warns residents to stay inside when a big cat is sighted? This article depicts the problem with this hysteria- driven policy. Over 600 residents were called and told to stay inside because there was, get this, a big stray cat on the loose.
So for starters this wasn't even a lion. But if it were, is this kind of management necessary or could they be overreacting? I'm all for taking pro-active measures to keep yourself safe from lions at home. You can take steps make your yard less lion-friendly, ie. Don't plant deer-attracting vegetation in your yard; Keep your pets, their food, and their water indoors especially at night; Clear dense shrubbery from around your yard; and by all means Don't Feed Wildlife! But to sequester yourself indoors because there could maybe, possibly, based on some totally unsubstantiated report, be something like a lion outside somewhere?
Well, here's the deal (provided you live within current mountain lion range): 1) There are lions outside. That's where they live. If you live near lion habitat, according to this policy you may as well build a bunker. If you're not sure if you live near lion habitat, look outside. Are there any deer? Because 2) often times where there are deer, there will be lions. Not all the time, by any means. Lions occur at very low densities and individuals cover large home ranges so they are few and far between, but if your yard is prime deer habitat, it could serve as lion habitat at least some of the time.
Does this increase your chances of being attacked by a wild mountain lion? Sure, I mean-- more so than if you live in the Bronx. But how high are the chances? They are still very, very low. And if you want to further reduce that chance, see the measures listed above.
Now, I'm no mathematician, but I know that the average number of people killed by mountain lions annually in the U.S. is some fraction of a whole number. It's very very rare. So rare that it does not warrant hysterically freaking out about it, like, say, the way you should if Cujo suddenly appears in your neighborhood. Meanwhile, there are real dangers outside that are around us all the time. For example, the number of people killed in car accidents annually in the U.S. is over 40,000 http://www.unitedjustice.com/death-statistics.html. An average of 114 people are killed in car accidents every day in the U.S. Does that mean that California should set up an automated telephone system to call and warn you to stay inside every time a car passes through your neighborhood? I thought so.
oh-- did I even mention how incredibly unreliable lion sightings are? That's another post all together...