IDYLLWILD — A tracker shot and killed a mountain lion believed to have killed three dogs, including one attack in which a leashed pet was snatched from an outside landing up two flights of stairs.
Joel Shows, a government-employed hunter, shot the mountain lion just two weeks after another of the big cats was shot to death following an attack in an Orange County park that badly injured a 5-year-old girl.
"I don't understand what's happening with these lions. We've had no problems all these years," said Shows, who shot the animal Thursday about 300 yards from the house where the attack took place on the stairs.
Beside the mountain lion was the dog's partly consumed carcass.
The cat is believed to have killed two other dogs and injured another in Idyllwild and in the nearby Riverside County community of Pine Cove, said Tom Paulek, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.
The dog, a pit bull-German shepherd mix, said by its owner to weigh 80 pounds, was grabbed with enough force to snap a heavy nylon leash and splinter the stairs to which it had been fastened, Paulek said.
When Shows' dogs found the cougar, it jumped up on a rock and appeared ready to attack rather than flee, as might be expected of the normally shy animals.
"He could hear everything going on. He wasn't a bit afraid," Shows said.
Since tall brush made a shot with a tranquilizer dart uncertain, Shows felled the cat with a rifle bullet, he said.
The cougar weighed 143 pounds and appeared to be old because his teeth were worn, Paulek said.
The attacks took place in the mountainous fringe of the San Bernardino National Forest 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Last month, a 5-year-old girl was attacked by another lion in Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano in Orange County. No other mountain lions have been seen in the park, although the tracks of a beast smaller than the one which attacked the girl were found last week. The park, which was closed after the attack, is scheduled to be reopened Monday.
Laura Michele Small, the Orange County victim, is recovering from bite wounds to her head inflicted in the attack March 23. She is the first person known to have been attacked by a mountain lion in California since 1909, according to state Fish and Game officials.
The lion that attacked the girl was shot by a search party the next day. It weighed about 90 pounds.
The state Fish and Game Commission decided Monday to keep mountain lions off limits to hunters for another year despite the growing population. Wildlife officials estimate there are now 5,000 of the cats in the state, compared to an estimate of 2,400 roaming the state in 1972, when their declining population resulted in a moratorium on hunting them.
Mountain lions, also called cougars, have been known to kill livestock around the San Jacinto Mountains, site of Thursday's attack, Paulek said. But excursions into populated areas are rare, he said.