A Cougar for Christmas: Mountain Lion Strolls Through a California Backyard

kempster lion
What a view! A mountain lion walks on a concrete wall in Sherry’s Kempster’s backyard with the Santa Monica Mountains in the background. Photo by Sherry Kempster
Yesterday morning, Sherry Kempster went outside after she heard some crows squawking in her backyard, assuming a hawk or other small animal had excited them. Instead, she discovered a mountain lion strolling along a concrete dividing wall. Luckily she had a camera handy, and captured a National Geographic worthy photo of the cougar’s visit, framed perfectly with the Santa Monica Mountains in the background. Although Sherry and her husband have observed a menagerie of wildlife on their property–snakes, bobcats, racoons and opossums–this was their first mountain lion sighting.

National Park Service researchers are trying to identify the lion, and Sherry has gathered photos of paw prints as well to help them determine its age and size. According to Scott Sharaga of the National Park Service, no mountain lions have been recently reported in the Newbury Park area. Wherever it came from, this mountain lion’s stroll through their neighborhood provided an early Christmas present for Sherry and her husband. Mountain lion sightings are extremely rare as the animal typically avoids people.

Sherry lives near the 101 Freeway, west of the site where the National Wildlife Federation is working with a group of dedicated partners to build what could be the largest wildlife crossing in the world to give mountain lions the room they need to roam. Los Angeles area freeways often prove deadly to these cats and other wildlife trying to cross the road in search of new territory or food, and the population of cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains faces extinction if a solution isn’t found. Thanks to concerned citizens like Sherry who want to be good neighbors to wildlife, the #SaveLACougars campaign is gathering much support.

UPDATE: Good news! California Fish and Wildlife, along with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service, successfully captured and relocated this cat, now identified as P34. She’s a 75 pound, 14 month year-old female and NPS researchers fitted her with a research collar before releasing her in order to track her movements in the future.

nps p34
P34 fitted with a new tracking collar just before her release last night. Photo CDFW/NPS

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