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Mountain lion spotted in west Petaluma near fresh deer kill

A mountain lion seen several times in Petaluma over the past week appears still to be venturing into the city, judging from a fresh deer kill near Sunnyslope Road and the western edge of town early Saturday.

But a report of its presence on the city’s east side made shortly after midnight Friday turns out to have been a false alarm, according to local animal control personnel.

What was seen in the areas of North McDowell Boulevard near Round Walk Village Circle and Southpoint Boulevard was actually a house cat, said Mark Scott, executive director of North Bay Animal Services.

The person who saw the animal took a photo of it later reviewed by animal control and reassessed, he said.

Scott said he understands the confusion. “Everybody’s concerned, you know?” he said.

Early Saturday, however, two men on the west side of town, around Sunnyslope Road and Suncrest Hill Drive, observed a mountain lion heading up Suncrest Hill toward open space.

Suncrest Hill Drive resident Dennis Leonard ran into them shortly after his wife drove by a dead deer on her way to work at 6:30 a.m. and he went out to see it.

The deer was clearly a fresh kill and was missing “a good part of its hindquarters,” Leonard said. Its blood had not coagulated yet when he saw it a short time later.

The men who had seen the cougar around 5:30 a.m. said the deer carcass had not been on the road at that time, he said.

Scott, whose agency has since collected the deer remains, said he believes it likely was killed by a puma. “It has all the signs, and considering some have been in the area…” he said, trailing off.

It appears to be the latest sign of an animal first reported Tuesday night east of Highway 101 and south of Corona Road.

The cougar was seen hours later well west of the highway, in a residential areas near Petaluma High School, where it was caught on home security camera in the early morning hours prowling within the fenced yard of local resident. Before Friday, it had last been seen on Wednesday morning on a hill beyond Hayes Lane, police said.

Leonard said the Lynch Creek Trail, which runs beneath the highway, and adjoining dry creek corridors would make it easy for a mountain lion to travel through the city without being spotted before finding the rural area near his home and Helen Putnam Regional Park, an area that offers “a smorgasbord of deer,” he said.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that no one’s seeing a mountain lion cruising down Petaluma Boulevard or Washington Street,” Leonard said. “They don’t need to do that.”

Mountain lions live throughout the North Bay region and beyond, though human interaction is extremely rare, and attacks even rarer, experts say.

But their imposing size and power makes them a startling sight, and they can cause injury to humans, as well as livestock losses.

People who encounter one are advised not to turn and run but to face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.

Pets and livestock should be secured at night in a puma-proof enclosure.

Petaluma police also ask that anyone who sees a mountain lion call the department at 707-778-4372.

More information is available at egret.org/living-with-lions.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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