Growing up in Livermore, it has often struck me as exhilarating and strange to know that just outside my town, in the rolling hills lives a large predator. I have seen bobcats, coyotes and a fox in Livermore.
I have never seen a mountain lion in all my hiking in the Tri-Valley, but I have the distinct feeling that they have seen me. I used to be paranoid one would pounce on my dog when I used to let him run around in Morgan Territory.
I became even more paranoid when I heard a story from someone up in Humboldt County, where I went to college. The man telling the story had hiked to the top of a small peak and was looking back down at the grassy fields below. Out of the redwood trees and into the grassy clearing came a dog running at full speed. The dog was wearing a harness pack carrying some supplies, the owner making the dog pull its own weight on the hike. Then, just behind the dog came a mountain lion hot on the dog's trail. The dog was able to evade the mountain lion just long enough for the dog's owners to come out of the forest, which caused the mountain lion to back off and crouch in the grass. The dog's owners had no clue the mountain lion was there.
With the drought in California, many of the watering holes used by mountain lions have dried up, and the animals they hunt have also flocked closer to residential areas in search of food and water. A friend of my mom's lives on Buena Vista Road in Livermore, which runs between East Avenue and Tesla. It is a road with large lots and has a rural feel to it, with many properties having small orchards and livestock. My mom's friend noticed some of her chickens were disappearing. They put a lock on the door of the chicken coop. This didn't stop the mountain lion, though. The predator jumped a 10-foot fence and crashed through the roof of the coop. The footprints leading away were unmistakably from a mountain lion.
Another story came from a rancher way out on Mines Road. He had a small pond for his cattle, and someone told him they had spotted a mountain lion there. He drove out to the pond, parked nearby and got out to walk, carrying a handgun just in case. When he got to the pond, he saw two young mountain lions, almost full grown. When the mountain lions saw him they didn't run away. They turned toward him and started approaching him rapidly. He drew his gun and fired at the ground but the predators kept coming. It wasn't until he fired closer to their feet that they scattered and ran.
It's hard to imagine surviving in such dry conditions, and I fervently hope our local mountain lions manage it without coming so close to humans that they pose immediate danger. If you have a mountain lion story to share or any tips on coexisting in the Tri-Valley with these amazing animals, feel free to write me.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.