mountain lions

Watch: Cameras Catch Glimpses of Stealthy Mountain Lion in Mission Viejo

Security cameras with motion detectors picked up the smooth operator strutting through backyards in the Orange County community. A middle school was locked down as a precaution.

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Panther pride is on full display at Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo, where a giant mural of the fearsome feline mascot adorns the school's exterior.

Panther pride is on full display at Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo, in Southern California, where a giant mural of the fearsome feline mascot adorns the school's exterior.

So when another type of big cat got too close to the school Thursday, authorities had to make it clear -- this is panther territory.

The school in the vicinity of several wilderness areas and green spaces was locked down as a precaution Thursday due to a mountain lion that was sighted by residents at several locations in the southeast Orange County community, where big cat sighting aren't all that rare.

Authorities also were on patrol in the Pacific Hills neighborhood.

By nightfall, it appeared the mountain lion caught on several security cameras was just doing mountain lion things as it strutted across patios and through backyards.

"Hasn't approached people or animals," said Kyle Werner, supervisor of Mission Viejo Animal Services. "It's just doing normal behavior. Looked like it was chasing a small rodent… which is fairly normal. It hasn't shown any aggressive behavior."

The sighting comes days after the capture of Southern California's most famous mountain lion, P-22. Wildlife officials announced they planned to capture P-22 to assess the aging mountain lion's health.

Researchers believe P-22 came from the Santa Monica Mountains. He somehow crossed the 405 and 101 freeways into Griffith Park about 10 years ago. Silver Lake is between Griffith Park and downtown Los Angeles.

He was captured in a Los Feliz backyard.

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.

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.
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