Possible Mountain Lion Sighting at Woodward Park

November 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno's Parks Director says people should be alert, but not panic in light of Monday's big cat sighting on the outskirts of Woodward Park.                   |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

The unconfirmed sighting happened Monday near one of the trails. City officials are treating it as credible and Tuesday a warning went out to park visitors. Beware of what may be living nearby.

A small sign greets visitors at Woodward Park ... Mountain Lion sighting.

Park officials say a person walking reportedly saw the animal Monday in the area near the Eaton Trail, on the northeast side of the park close to the river bottom.

Parks and Recreation Director Randall Cooper said, "We've had some other sightings along the river bottom up by Children's Hospital, so there's been other sightings. State Animal Control and the Department of Fish and Game are aware of the sightings and we're going to increase patrols in the park and try to make it safe for residents."

Some park visitors shrugged off the warning Tuesday night.

Jennifer Dennis said, "I kinda didn't believe it so I don't know I kinda want to find out more about it."

"I kinda want to see one but then again I don't but I'm not really scared because it doesn't seem real right now," said Avery Hiley.

A group of competitive cyclists rides in the park often. They have seen other animals dart out in front of them, but never a Mountain Lion. They feel safe together.

George Ciordas said, "My reaction, I really don't have much. When were a bunch of guys that just speed around the park we're the numbers ... power in numbers dictate it all."

Park officials say it's important for all visitors to be especially cautious in areas where there's heavy vegetation. Paying close attention to your surroundings is important. Since many different animals live in the river bottom, officials say there will be more run-ins with wildlife.

"As we increase the flow of water in the river, and we bring more animals into the habitat, these kinds of encounters are going to happen more in the future," said Cooper.

If you come face to face with a Mountain Lion, the Department of Fish and Game has some tips:

Do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children. If attacked, fight back.

Local wildlife experts say if there is a Mountain Lion in the area it's likely hungry and in search of food.

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