VALENCIA — A mountain lion was reportedly sighted Tuesday in a neighborhood near College of the Canyons, not far from where authorities killed a cougar last month, but a land and air search turned up no sign of the big cat.
The lion was reported at about 10:30 a.m. by a woman walking her dog near Arroyo Park Drive and Summit Place, east of the Golden State Freeway between the California Institute of the Arts and the college, said Lt. Daniel Castillo of the Santa Clarita station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Three sheriff's ground units, a helicopter crew and wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game tried unsuccessfully to find the cat, authorities said.
Just last month an 80-pound female cougar was found sleeping in the backyard of a residence in the 23900 block of Rotunda Road--about a mile south of Tuesday's sighting. Fish and Game officials shot that cat when they could not flush it out of a corner of the yard even after dogs confronted it.
The wardens were criticized by a Los Angeles Zoo veterinarian for not waiting so he could tranquilize the cougar. But the wardens countered that it is agency policy to kill an animal when it cannot be treed--which is considered the safest position for the public.
Fish and Game later said that even if the lion had been captured with a tranquilizer dart, it would have been killed. All cougars that prowl into inhabited areas are killed, because there is no wild land for them to be returned to that is not already claimed by one of the state's burgeoning mountain lion population, officials said.
On Tuesday, officials called off the search in the afternoon, Castillo said. But he warned residents to remain on the lookout.
"We don't have any special patrol, but we are relying on the people" to report the cat, Castillo said.
He said that if a person encounters the cat, they should try to make themselves look as big as possible by standing upright and spreading their arms and clothing. Under no circumstances should those confronting a lion turn their backs or run, actions which trigger the animal's hunting reflex.