Redwood Valley resident Sarah Harris recently lost all her chickens to a mountain lion who keeps visiting her yard, and said this week she wants to warn her neighbors about the large predator still in the area.
“I’m scared to go out on my front porch after dark,” said Harris, who turned 93 last month and still drives into town most days to get her mail. “But I can’t run as fast as I used to. And I don’t think I can wrassle a big cat!”
Harris said she used to have dogs in her yard to help keep predators away, but lately there has been no one outside but the 15 hens she bought as day-old chicks.
“And they were just starting to get ready to lay eggs when the lion started coming into the yard,” she said, explaining that the cat easily cleared her six-foot fence to begin picking off the hens one-by-one. “It would jump the fence, take a chicken and leave. Then come back the next day, until they were all gone.”
She said each time she tried to move the hens to safer spots, but the lion always got to them, breaking through chicken wire and into sheds.
“I did everything I could do, but it’s hungry,” she said of the lion, which she thinks is the same adult she saw in her yard last year with a cub.
Harris said the last chicken was taken about two weeks ago Wednesday, but the cat keeps returning to her yard – including Tuesday night around 8 pm – which she guesses is because of the mice living in her sheds, and the gophers living in the ground.
“(The cat) keeps coming in and eating whatever it can find,” she said, adding that she is afraid to go outside after dark on the property she has lived on for 50 years, and wants her neighbors to know about the large predator so they can keep their animals, and themselves, in at night.
Harris did not want to divulge her address or the street. She lives on to prevent people coming to take pictures of the cat, describing where she lives as “the area between Highway 20 and School Way” in Redwood Valley.
Harris said she has already warned the neighbors she has encountered, including one neighbor who told her that they saw the lion in their yard, and “just sat and watched it. I said, ‘You must be from the city!’”
Harris said she lives on a fixed income and doesn’t have the money to buy expensive new pens, “or the energy” to research what other options are available to protect her chickens, though she does hope to get more chicks next year.
She said she went to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office for help and was referred to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, but was told mountain lions were protected and the individual visiting her home would not be relocated.
When asked about Harris’ account, Tom Batter, a wildlife biologist with the Mendocino County division of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said his agency had “not been made aware of the particular incident described,” but confirmed that the species is protected .
“Mountain lions are currently under review for listing as a protected species in Southern California, and during the review process are treated as listed statewide,” Batter explained in an email. “As such, harassment including hazing or lethal removal is unlawful. CDFW does not relocate mountain lions; There is no scientific support for such measures to be humane, tenable, or a long-term solution to human-lion encounters.”
Instead, Batter said his agency “recommends a number of preventative measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict issues (which typically arise) when we, intentionally or inadvertently, attract wildlife to our properties. CDFW recommends keeping pets on a leash when outdoors (or) in a secured, fully enclosed structure (and) securely housing livestock or poultry, such as chickens, in fully enclosed structures, especially when mountain lions and other predators are most active (at night , dawn, and dusk).”
Batter added that more suggestions “for reducing the attractiveness of homes and neighborhoods, as well as preventative applications for a number of wildlife species can be found on the CDFW website.