By Mary O’KEEFE
Residents in the foothills area are being warned to be cautious due to a recent mountain lion attack on a small dog just off Briggs Avenue. Early Saturday morning, local resident Kim Mattersteig found the remains of her beloved dog Bridget in the backyard of her home. The dog had been viciously attacked by what authorities told Mattersteig was likely a mountain lion. There are several deep scratches along the back fence of her property that appear to be made by an animal jumping over the fence.
Mattersteig and her husband Paul contacted the Los Angeles County Animal Control, which sent an officer out to the area. He traced the likely path of the animal and saw fresh mountain lion paw prints.
The 22-pound elderly dog had used the doggy door during the night. It was not until the next morning the family realized that she had not come back into the house.
Claw scratches run along the back fence of the property indicating where the mountain lion had attempted to jump back over the fence, perhaps with its prey. From the marks it does not seem the animal was able to make the leap.
Mattersteig found an area of the yard where the vegetation was matted down. It is there where she thinks the mountain lion lay down after killing Bridget.
The Mattersteigs are well aware of the wildlife around them. They have tried to take precautions.
“We never leave food out,” Mattersteig said. Leaving food out is a big draw for wildlife.
“This is not so much an animal problem as a people problem,” said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Dept. of Fish and Game.
During the recent bear sightings, residents were warned to keep their garbage cans secure until the morning of trash pick-up day.
“And don’t leave any food out, like dog or cat food,” Hughan said. If dogs or cats are fed outside, their food and water bowls need to be brought in after the animal is done eating. The pet food might not necessarily bring larger animals but can bring smaller ones, which in turn entice larger animals to follow their scent to a home. Sometimes the food is not left out for pets but actually is left out as a way of helping the wildlife; however, Hughan said this is not helping the animals.
“Wild animals don’t need your handouts. They need your respect,” states the Dept. of Fish and Games website.
Hughan added that feeding wildlife could actually harm them. They get used to being fed by humans and lose their natural fear and can become aggressive.
Lately residents in the Briggs Terrace area have reported sightings of coyotes – several coyotes – roaming the area. One longtime La Crescenta resident told CVW that one evening about midnight, he had witnessed five coyotes cross Foothill Boulevard traveling south from the Crescenta Cañada YMCA.
Being a longtime resident, he said it was rare that he would see coyotes below Foothill Boulevard. Other residents reported sightings stating that, in the past, the coyotes looked thin, but these were healthy and big animals.
Mattersteig has been hearing more coyote howls in recent months as well. She has also seen more notices of missing pets.
“Coyotes are a major problem statewide,” Hughan said. “It is a big problem but there really is not a solution.”
The problem falls to the local homeowner or homeowners’ association. In the case of La Crescenta, the Crescenta Valley Town Council has been notified of the issue and is working with authorities on what can be done.
“There has been only one coyote fatality in 150 years,” Hughan said. “And only three confirmed bites [coyotes biting people] in the last four years. Two last year and one this year.”
Two women were bitten while walking on a golf course in Palm Springs and a baby was bitten at a cemetery in Cypress.
Residents interviewed agreed the coyotes are getting more and more aggressive, and coming closer to homes. One resident stated the coyotes came sniffing around a doggy door. Luckily it was locked at the time.
Information from the Dept. of Fish and Game
“Keep Me Wild” program Coyote Country Precautions
•Never feed or attempt to tame coyotes. The result may be deadly conflicts with pets or livestock, or serious injuries to small children.
•Do not leave small children or pets outside unattended.
•Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
•Trim ground-level shrubbery to reduce hiding places.
•Be aware that coyotes are more active in the spring, when feeding and protecting their young.
•If followed by a coyote, make loud noises. If this fails, throw rocks in the animal’s direction.
•If a coyote attacks a person, immediately contact the nearest Department of Fish and Game or law enforcement office.
Living in Mountain Lion Country
•Don’t feed deer; it is illegal in California and it will attract mountain lions.
•Deer-proof your landscaping by avoiding plants that deer like to eat. For tips, request A Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage from DFG offices.
•Trim brush to reduce hiding places for mountain lions.
•Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.
•Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
•Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats, and other vulnerable animals.
•Don’t allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk, and at night.
•Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums and other potential mountain lion prey.
Bear Country Precautions
•Store garbage in bear-proof containers, or store garbage in your garage until pick-up.
•Bears and other animals are attracted to anything edible or smelly.
•Keep food indoors or in airtight and odor-free containers.
•Put away picnic leftovers; clean BBQ grills.
•Keep pet food inside, and bird feeders away.
•Pick up fallen tree fruit as soon as possible, or protect fruit trees with electric fencing.
•Remove cosmetic fragrances and other attractants, including bird feeders and compost piles.
•Install or request bear-proof trash containers.
•Keep a close watch on children, and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.
•While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.
•Never keep food in your tent.
•Store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.
•Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.
•Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.
•Never approach a bear or pick up a bear cub.
•If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.
•If attacked, fight back.
•If a bear attacks a person, immediately call 911.
When wild animals are allowed to feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways – often resulting in death for the animal.