Mountain lion prowling North Shore

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INCLINE VILLAGE -- A mountain lion roaming Lake Tahoe's north shore should come as no surprise, but it's still rare when people actually see them.

"They would much rather avoid people, or at least not let people know of their presence," said Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist with the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

A few years ago one of the collared mountain lions had been living between the highway and Lake Tahoe, yet in the year the animal lived there no one reported seeing it, according to Lackey.

One person reported seeing one of the big cats last Thursday afternoon near Dale and Knotty Pine, and someone spotted one Friday morning near Crystal Bay Hill, at Tuscarora at Lakeview.

One of the callers to the sheriff's substation in Incline Village said it looked like the animal was limping.

"They did not say anyone had been attacked or the cat had gone into anyone's garbage," said Sgt. Bill Devine of the Washoe County Sheriff's substation.

Lackey said there are more mountain lions in the region than most people realize, because they tend to be so secretive.

"They are crepuscular, coming out at dawn and at dusk," he said. "They tend to be nocturnal." These predators eat almost anything, from coyotes to people's pets, but their main prey in the Tahoe Basin is deer, he said.

"Mountain lions in the Tahoe Basin can have a home range of more than 100 square miles," he said.

If you're out in the wilderness and come across one on a trail, behave the same way as you would if it were a bear, Lackey said.

"Definitely don't turn your back; remain facing the animal," he said. "Make yourself look as big as possible." If you have small children with you in the wilderness, keep them close to you, he said.

As you attempt to back away from the lion, observe its behavior.

"A sure sign of an aggressive cat is an intent stare," Lackey said. "If the animal appears to be moving closer or not budging, be prepared to fight for your life."

A cat is a pure predator, Lackey said. Sometimes a healthy adult lion will attack with no explanation; it's just the way they are. More likely, it will be a lion that's starving or a young lion that hasn't perfected its hunting skills.

"We're pretty easy to catch," Lackey said.

There's cause for concern only if there are continual reports over several days in the same area, he said. Then wildlife officials will attempt to come in and capture it to relocate, or dispatch the animal.

"If the animal has been sighted around schools, we don't mess around," Lackey said.


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