Hairstylists Emily Taylor and Rukkus did a double-take Tuesday at the strange thing that happened while they went about their workday at a hair salon in Irvine.
They saw people outside their building, chasing some kind of animal coming their way. They ran to make sure the door of Bishops Salon was closed tight.
"Me and Rukkus held the door shut and we were like, 'Oh, my God … no, no, no, no,'" Taylor said.
Rukkus couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"I opened my eyes like, 'What was that?'" he said.
It was a 2-year-old male mountain lion. Dazed and confused, and being pursued by members of animal control, it kept running toward an office complex behind a shopping center.
Along the way, the big cat left scratch marks on a concrete sidewalk and froze onlookers who saw it in their place.
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When it finally came into the offices of the company Morse Micro, employees didn't even realize at first what the creature could be.
"I thought I'd put a saddle on and ride it out, it was a big old thing," said witness Mark Waterhouse.
Police say the cat did not attack or bite anyone — but it did leave a trail of "what-ifs."
Given the size and health of the animal, officials said that will be a candidate for release back into the wild.
There are about 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in California, but wildlife officials call that a crude estimate without an ongoing statewide study. More than half of the state is considered prime habitat for the big cats, which can be found wherever deer are present.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife receives hundreds of mountain lion sighting reports each year. Few result in mountain lions being identified as posing an imminent threat to public safety, the department said. Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare and their nature is to avoid humans.
Here's a full list of recommendations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of what to do during a mountain lion encounter:
- Do not hike, bike, or jog alone. Stay alert on trails.
- Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active – dawn, dusk, and at night.
- Keep a close watch on small children.
- Off leash dogs on trails are at increased risk of becoming prey for a mountain lion.
- Never approach a mountain lion. Give them an escape route.
- DO NOT RUN. Stay calm. Running may trigger chase, catch and kill response. Do not turn your back. Face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms, or opening your jacket if wearing one; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
- Do not crouch down or bend over. Squatting puts you in a vulnerable position of appearing much like a 4-legged prey animal.
- Be vocal; however, speak calmly and do not use high pitched tones or high pitch screams.
- Teach others how to behave during an encounter. Anyone who runs may initiate an attack.
- If a lion attacks, fight back. Research on mountain lion attacks suggests that many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, garden tools, even an ink pen or bare hands. Try to stay on your feet. If knocked down, try to protect head and neck.
- If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.
- Report unusual mountain lion behavior to your local CDFW regional office.