A bold cougar prompts closure - Big cat showed no fear when confronted by mule riders at Caspers park

(Note: Connecting the dots, the more sightings/injuries/deaths, the more closures, the more wilderness, and presto! The Wildlands Project, by default.)

April 27, 2004

By Pat Brennan and Ryan Hammill

The Orange County Register

Santa Ana, California

pbrennan@ocregister.com or 714-796-7865


To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@ocregister.com
A portion of Caspers Wilderness Park was closed for two days after a bold mountain lion showed too much interest in park visitors, but will reopen today.

Capt. Jerry Spansail of the State Department of Fish and Game said Monday that the cougar, probably a young male, failed to show fear when it was encountered by at least two mule riders about 5 p.m. Saturday. The lion, seen twice by the riders, might even have been following them, although that was uncertain.

The lion was then frightened off by one of the mules.

"It's probably a situation where we have a young, immature lion being overly curious," Spansail said.

Orange County parks officials and state Fish and Game personnel took precautions nevertheless. Areas of the park used only for hiking or picnicking during the day were closed Sunday and Monday, Spansail said, although overnight camping areas remained open. Game wardens went to the park armed with weapons, including a rifle.

The wardens always take firearms when investigating mountain lion problems, Spansail said, so the presence of such weapons did not mean they planned to shoot the lion. The wardens did not see the cougar, and county park ranger John Gannaway said the park would be reopened to daytime use today.

Mountain lion tracks are routinely seen at the park, which has the most reported mountain lion sightings of any county park.

Visitors have been stalked, though such incidents are rare. And two small children were injured in mountain lion attacks in 1986.

In January, bicyclist Mark Reynolds was killed by a cougar at Whiting Ranch Park, and Anne Hjelle, another cyclist, was mauled.

The lion was shot to death that evening.

Another lion or lions appeared on a security camera tape near a Catholic high school in Rancho Santa Margarita last month.


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