Mountain lions are running amuck on the Peninsula, according to Coastside ranchers who believe the wild predators are increasingly prowling near rural homes and attacking livestock. Local cattlemen are calling for new control measures to thin the population or scare the cougars away from humans.

Mountain lions were the big discussion topic on Monday morning during a packed meeting of the San Mateo County Farm Bureau. Ranchers and farmers, primarily from the South Coast, emphasized that the animals were trekking closer to homes and sightings were becoming frequent.

Attacks on cattle have also become commonplace, they say. Like many of the ranchers gathering on Monday morning, Ron Cardoza of San Gregorio had his own grisly story of a mountain lion’s carnage.

He said his herd on his 600-acre ranch was vicimized last month after a series of nightly attacks that he suspects were by the same cougar. He lost a mother cow and her four calves — costing him about $7,000. His neighbors down the road also had lost goats and alpacas.

“If this mountain lion comes back two or three more times, then I’m broke,” he said. “Everything I’ve worked for the last 19 years is gone.”

The issue was deeply emotional for many of the attendees. Cardoza brought along photos of his dead cows with claw marks and bloody gashes. Sometimes, the lions barely consumed the carcasses, and it seems like they killed more for amusement, he said.

Ranchers at the meeting, some touting their families’ long history on the Coastside, said wild cougars never previously presented much of a problem. Sightings and attacks first began around 2008 and since then they have continued to rise, said Vince Fontana, owner of one of the larger ranching operations in the area.

An estimated 40 mountain lions are roaming through the Peninsula wilderness, according to Veronica Yovovich, a wildlife biologist with the Puma Project, a research project out of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since 2008, researchers with the Puma Project have attached collars to dozens of mountain lions and tracked their movement. For the most part, cougars that have been analyzed have subsisted largely off deer, she said.

Estimates varied on how many head of cattle had been killed. Fontana estimated mountain lions had killed 25 locally this year alone. Cardoza believed the number was higher. Many attacks were apparently never reported to authorities.

Two California Fish and Wildlife officials at the meeting advised the crowd on the special status afforded to mountain lions under California law. Cougar hunting has been banned in California since 1990 after voters approved Proposition 117.

Fontana and others in attendance said the lack of hunting spurs an over-population.

“The lions are becoming really, really comfortable in close contact with humans,” he said. “People making (laws) are making decisions from their passions, and look where that’s getting us.”

If a mountain lion exhibits threatening behavior to humans or animals, state Fish and Wildlife officials can issue a depredation permit to kill it. Since 2013, six depredation permits have been granted in San Mateo County, one warden reported at the meeting.

Attendees at the meeting urged the Farm Bureau to press county officials for funding to hire a professional animal tracker or to give instruction on laying traps.

(4) comments

linda

I forgot to ask the question: How does anyone who owns a 600-acre ranch go broke as this person claims?

I live on a postage size lot. I would consider myself completely blessed if I owned 600 acres locally.

I suggest this ranch owner count his blessings, and figure out how to profit from his 600 acres without killing wildlife.

Since the time of Christ, sheep-herders have lost lambs to predators. Get with the program! This is how the world works.

Life is not all about profits.

linda

Cougar hunting has been banned in California since 1990 after voters approved Proposition 117. VOTERS HAVE HAD THEIR SAY!

LEAVE MOUNTAIN LIONS ALONE. IF YOU CAN'T MAKE A LIVING WITHOUT KILLING MOUNTAIN LIONS, THEN PLEASE JUST RETIRE.

Let's not wipe out every living species, just so a few people can have nice profits.
Again, Cougar hunting has been banned in California since 1990 after voters approved Proposition 117.

The majority of Californians have already VOTED on this. Live with it and suck it up.

John Gruver

I call B.S.! Always ranchers are being driven out of business by mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bears, wolverines, sheep, rustlers... Sheesh!

Before any "culling" is done, I say an official count must be done, confirming that the "kills" when found are actually by mountain lions.

Montara2006

I swear I heard one late last night around the southern end of Half Moon Bay by coastal path. Didn't go out to check though!

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