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Mountain lions have residents on edge in Burbank, Glendale hills

With multiple confirmed sightings of mountain lions and coyotes in the region this summer, experts say small children and pets should not be left outdoors unattended.

August 21, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, Los Angeles Times
  • Mountain lions often avoid people and prefer to eat deer, pets and livestock, officials said.
Mountain lions often avoid people and prefer to eat deer, pets and livestock,… (Santa Monica Mountains…)

Several recent mountain lion sightings in the Burbank area are raising safety concerns among some hillside residents who say the animals pose a threat to pets and small children.

Burbank police have logged at least four mountain lion sightings this summer, including two this month. Another resident reported seeing a lion about 9 p.m. Monday in Glendale, but animal control officials didn't investigate because the call was a day late, said Ricky Whitman, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena Humane Society.

"It's not uncommon to see them in the foothills and we know that they are there," she said.

Still, Whitman said residents often mistake coyotes and bobcats for mountain lions because they are similar in shape and size.

Burbank residents reported seeing what they thought was a mountain lion feeding on a dead deer early Sunday in the foothill neighborhood of Viewcrest Drive and Reynolds Drive, but Burbank Police Lt. John Dilibert said wildlife experts confirmed that a coyote had killed the deer.

The experts cited bite marks on the deer and animal tracks at the scene.

Coyotes were also spotted about a month ago in the Glendale foothills, prompting animal control and police officials to issue public warnings, said Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz.

Sun Valley resident Carlo Spiga reported seeing a mountain lion climbing over a chain-link fence in his backyard last week. He was alerted to the cat by his dog's barking.

In the past, Spiga said, he has photographed mountain lion tracks in his yard and discovered a resting spot. But his most recent encounter was different, he said. Spiga flashed a light at the lion, but it didn't run away.

"He just kind of froze and I just kind of froze," Spiga said.

The lion instead moved slowly over the fence as if it was unbothered by the light and Spiga's presence, he said. Although the lion eventually took off, Spiga said the encounter was unsettling.

"I have a 4-year-old daughter and 10-year-old girl," he said. "I am just seriously scared."

The lion was probably hunting Spiga's dog, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

"If the mountain lion was hungry, they don't look at people for food," he said.

In 2009, officials determined that a mountain lion killed an 85-pound German shepherd/Akita mix while it slept on a backyard patio in Glendale. The dog was found with a deep gash extending from the base of its head to its tail.

Officials said there isn't much to be done about the wildlife population besides taking precautions for pets and small children. Mountain lions often avoid people and prefer to eat deer, pets and livestock, officials said.

"Usually, they don't really like people very much," Whitman said.

Still, officials warned that pets and children shouldn't be left unattended, especially amid multiple sightings.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," Hughan said.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com



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