The City of Chico’s Park Division is advising visitors to not visit Upper Bidwell Park between the dusk and dawn hours and “to remain especially vigilant” after a mountain lion attacked and killed a Chico State student’s dog on the Yahi trail last weekend.
The Park Division confirmed in a press release today the mountain lion appears to have stalked Rachel Athos, her roommate, and her dog Lexi last Saturday afternoon. According to Athos, her dog Lexi put herself between Athos and the mountain lion and saved her life, a claim reaffirmed by the USDA Wildlife Service Tracker who found Lexi’s remains Tuesday. The Park Division indicated the behavior of this lion is “unusually aggressive and poses a safety concern to park visitors.”
“Usually most mountain lions are afraid of dogs and try to steer clear of them,” said Shane Romain, Senior Park Ranger for the Park Division. “They should be afraid of them, but this one was clearly not. We’ve also heard another report of another dog being attacked by a mountain lion in Yuba County, which is very unusual.”
Romain also stated on the phone there has been some speculation among biologists and other officials with the USDA and other wildlife services about a possible correlation between the record dry conditions this winter and unusual animal behavior. The Park Division, USDA and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are monitoring the area for indicators of further activity by the mountain lion in Upper Bidwell Park.
The Park Division also wanted to stress mountain lions are part of Upper Bidwell Park’s natural environment and sightings do occur. However, the behavior of this lion is outside the norm and possess a possible threat.
To help protect yourself, the Park Division is reminding visitors:
*Avoid surprising animals and to avoid sections of trail with limited sight lines.
*Turn off headphones and tune into your surroundings in order to hear approaching animals.
*Avoid hiking, running or biking alone especially from dusk to dawn as these animals are most active and more difficult to detect during this time.
*Keep your children in sight and keep pets on a leash. Although some areas of the park allow for pets to be off the leash, it is recommended to keep them on one as to not attract mountain lions.
If you encounter a mountain lion, DO NOT RUN. The Park Division advises to stay calm, maintain eye contact with the lion and back up slowly. You should also appear larger by raising your arms or opening your jacket if possible. Speak firmly in a loud voice and pick up small children.
If you encounter a mountain lion contact the Park Division at (530) 896-7800 or the Chico Police Department.