No one knows for sure if it was a mountain lion that killed Shari Wiemann-Emling's beloved pet goats, Greta and Violet, in their paddock last week.
But the attack, and several reported mountain lion sightings in residential neighborhoods near the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and lands of Hidden Villa in recent months prompted a "rapid notify" phone call to go out to residents of Los Altos Hills Tuesday morning.
"We do not have official confirmation it was a mountain lion," said Janet Shannon, the town's safety officer. It could have been a coyote or other natural predator, she said. But the goats' death, combined with other sightings in the area prompted Shannon to call for the rapid notify system.
"We want to let people know if they have pets outside," Shannon said.
"The intent is to make people aware of the continued presence of mountain lions in our area and how to respond if they encounter one," added Mayor Rich Larsen.
Last October, the Town of Los Altos Hills held a forum on "Mountain Lions in Our Midst," the fifth part of the "Living With Wildlife" series, in response to sightings on Rhus Ridge and elsewhere. The town website recorded an engrossing video on the mountain lion forum where representatives from the state Fish & Game and other experts answered questions, including a graduate student from the UC-Santa Cruz who is participating of a study on mountain lion habitat here.
For some perspective, only 16 people have been attacked by mountain lions in California since 1890—and only six were fatal, said Capt. Don Kelly, the local patrol captain for the Dept. of Fish & Game, during the forum. Domestic animals such as dogs, have killed more people, he said.
On Wednesday, Clayton Koopmann, wildland ecologist for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District said the district rangers saw the goat remains said they couldn't conclusively say it was a mountain lion—they couldn't find tracks, for example—but it most likely was. The most important message, he said, was that people living in the semi-rural area need to take proper precautions.
Tuesday's alert contained the following advice, which was contained in an email from Mayor Rich Larsen forwarded to Patch:
If you see a mountain lion, first and foremost please call 911.
Additionally, for tracking and reporting purposes, please call the Regional Office of the Department of Fish & Game at 707-944-5531.
The Town is in an area of known mountain lion habitat and it is essential to secure pets and livestock in properly designated enclosures to keep them from succumbing to natural predators including mountain lions, coyotes and raccoons.
Mountain Lion Safety Tips:
Supervise children at all times. Educate them about mountain lions and other wildlife they might encounter.
Never run past or from a mountain lion. This may trigger their instinct to chase. Make eye contact. Stand your ground. Pick up small children without turning away or bending over.
Keep pets secure. Roaming pets are easy prey for mountain lions.
Confine and secure any livestock (especially at night) in pens, sheds, and barns.
Landscape for safety. Remove vegetation that provides cover for mountain lions. Remove plants that attract wildlife (deer, raccoons, etc.). By attracting them you naturally attract their predator the mountain lion.
Do not feed wildlife. Do not leave pet food outside. Both may attract mountain lions by attracting their natural prey.
For more information on how to keep pets and livestock safe from predators, please visit www.mountainlion.org.
Wiemann-Emling, who described herself as "heartsick," hopes the warning comes in time to educate residents about safety for their livestock and dogs. She had had Violet, a half-Nubian, half-Angora goat for 20 years, and Greta, a Swiss dairy goat, for 10. Both had come from Hidden Villa next door. As a good-neighbor gesture, Pliny Keep, Hidden Villa's new facilities manager, took the goats' bodies to bury on the property.
"I don't want anyone to go through what I'm going through," said Wiemann-Emling. "I had one goat for 20 years and one for 10. They were loving and kind animals and didn't deserve this horrific death."