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Mountain Lion Attack in California and Our Dogs of Suburbia
We Live in Mountain Lion Country with Our Dogs
The end of 1995 was the year we decided to get two puppies. We had lost our cocker spaniel "Topper" earlier in the year. The kids were 14 and 13 and it was time for new pets. We love dogs. Within two days we found the puppies we wanted. A beagle we named Charlie and a shorty Jack Russell we called Barkley.
The Beagle is beautifully colored with the black, brown and white. A narrow white stripe up his forehead and a white tip on his tail. He is the type with the longer legs and slightly wide chest. He barks but does not howl, except on very rare occasions. Very sharp nose. For a brief time he was sniffing for earth worms locating them in the deep grass and eating them for dessert. He weights about 35 pounds.
Barkley was a tremendous kisser as a young puppy. His normal weight was 15 pounds and solid as a brick. He could not curl up into a little ball and it was not easy to carry him. We insisted on them staying off the sofas. They were not lap dogs. When the owners said; "Time for bed." The dogs went straight to their crates and spent the nights slumbering in the family room.
In this story you will learn our tough lesson on pet safety. Being in a housing tract with fences is no shield against mountain lion attacks near the San Gabriel Mountains.
Beagle and Jack Russell
Barkley was pretty much the top dog. The adults in the house didn't care. He was our favorite. When the dogs rushed outside Barkley always looked like he was on a serious hunting expedition. He was on a mission and important things were to be found. That dog was short, stout and strong. Especially, his jaws. We loved to play tug and he would jump backwards and tug so hard your arm felt like it would dislocate.
Catch was another favorite. He played catch in the yard and in the house. If someone was in the pool they had to throw the ball for him. Barkley would run the ball back and plop it in the water for another throw. This could go on all day if you let it.
Not Buddies All the Time
At home we would have a dog fight occasionally. Barkley would provoke Charlie by walking in front of his nose, cutting him off and challenging the Beagle any way he could. It was the occasional time that the Beagle would just have enough of it.
There will be blood and it would be Barkley's.
One time Barkley's muzzle festered after a confrontation. One side became a large balloon. A visit to the vet found it only needed draining. The people in the house had a scare.
Directly Below Uninhabited Mountains
When the two dogs would go for a walk on the leashes Barkley was out front. Moving short legs as fast as he could to have a nose forward. The walks were rather orderly and uneventful, always a good workout and a favorite of the pups.
The scenery would be my enjoyment. This area in LA County is called The San Gabriel Valley along the foot of the mountains. I take in live oaks, mountain ridges and at some spots, a view for miles.
This view is toward the ocean, the 57 Freeway and Kellogg Hills. Many ridges still present beyond till the flats lands are reached. My Mom lives in that direction. 33 miles away in the flat lands of Downey.
The Wild Creatures
Other creatures were a good occupation for the dogs senses.
One time when they were quite young an opossum walked along the wall after dark. Ever since that night they both would bolt out the back door and out do each other to the back fence, racing as fast as their legs would go, Barkley yipping all the way. Of course, there was never another animal to find.
Once in awhile the dogs would be seen with the remains of a gopher or cottontail rabbit.
Coyotes are a nightly visitor in our area. I worked till midnight for many years and I would see them on this or that street. The thin colorless light gray animals with messy looking coats would dash away with the approach of the car. We never saw them once in our block fenced yard. Most nights we can hear their packs howling or yipping the short fast yelps, the clamor fading away as they move down to Foothill Boulevard or among the few live oaks clinging to the foothills.
If you owned a cat in our area it was an indoor pet. Never to be seen out and about for fear of life and limb.
We have seen the beautiful bobcat, one just last week, and a huge pile of bear scat in the front yard because we live at the very edge of LA suburbia with vertical land rising with gullies, peaks, streams, oaks and chaparral and plenty of poison oak a half mile north of the neighborhood.
Other sightings have been red tailed hawks, buzzards, white tailed kites, swallows, kestrels, tarantulas, frogs, great horned owl, blue heron, hummingbirds, bats, road runner, cedar wax wings, the occasional deer, or a horse, being a stable is nearby.
Our city is on the outskirts of Los Angeles County.
One Moonless Night
We were away one evening till about 10pm. Calling the dogs in when we arrived produced Charlie with a wild expression in his eyes. This was strange, it was Charlie who would end up missing once in awhile. He found out how to climb or squeeze through some area in the fence. He would show up the next day.
I called my husband, "Eddie, there's no Barkley."
We both went out into the yard. It was dark and I didn't venture to deep. After just a couple of minutes I heard Eddie.
"He's over here."
"Is he okay?"
He was coming from the darker side of the house and Barkley was cradled in his out stretched arms. He was injured somehow. As we fixed his tongue that was clamped between his jaws, we tried to figure out what could have happened! Their dog fights could not have done this? We could see Barkley breathing, his chest going up and down. The rest of his body was still. We were in pet emergency shock. Eddie picked him up in both arms again and headed for the door.
"Eddie where are you going?"
"We need to take him somewhere."
"Wait. We better look in the phone book."
After two calls we were advised to take him to the after hours animal emergency in Diamond Bar. It is not too far.
I drove and Eddie held Barkley. One moment it seemed he stop breathing and Eddie gave him a nudge and we could hear him breathe again.
The doctor looked at him a moment and advised x-rays to help assess what had happened. It did not take too long to see the pictures. The doctor had them on a laptop and brought the pictures out and gave us his assessment.
He was breathing through a puncture in his chest. The base of his neck was crushed, and the breathing tube destroyed. His whole left shoulder area was also crushed. He was immobile. We saw the tiniest expression in his eyes. The doctor recovered a small portion of a sharp claw. Working many years as an after hours doctor he confirmed that it was a mountain lion attack. He advised us he was 2% viable.
So we left our Barkley there. He was gone.
Footprint. April, 2008
Kindly made by the assistants of the emergency veterinarian clinic.
Mountain Lion Visits Our Yard
At home we checked Charlie. The back thigh had a four inch gash that did not include the muscle. The next day the wound was closing. He had three tufts of hair that had begun to stand up on the lower back. Three needle like punctures were visible. The cat had hit Charlie twice with his claws.
He was very quiet and seemed to want to sleep.
Another Mountain Lion Encounter
Just a week later a young mountain lion was spotted sitting on a block fence two miles down the hill from us. The fence bordered the 210 Freeway. There was some concern it would flee onto the freeway.
Fish and Game were dispatched. The cat was darted once but because it ran toward a street and traffic they darted it again. Unfortunately, the juvenile died. We could not get any more details of what happened.
California has had bans on mountain lion hunting since 1972. The state voted on the issue in 1990. Our family is certain this was the cat that Barkley met up with. It was a young lion looking for his territory. He was a juvenile pushed down the hill. Each adult defends a territory and new cats are discouraged from entering. The picture is not of the unfortunate cat. The paper showed a slender light tan cat without dark markings.
Bears and the big cats are rarely seen here. None the less, now Charlie is put in his crate when we leave the house after dark. If you should live in such an area, remember you can not be too careful at night.
Good question and answer document about lions in California: Mountains Lions and California State Parks
The Mountain Lion Founation
History in California, news tracking, contacts and more.
Respecting Wild Animals
- Keep Me Wild
Information about the wild animals of California
Next to the San Gabriel Mountains
We live in the big populous LA Basin in what is called the Inland Empire. We live on the edge and it is tract housing all around, but the San Gabriel Mountain range is just north and home of wildlife. We consider it mountain lion country now.
We are now entering a new philosophy. One hundred years ago wild was not considered as it is now. Wild is now worth something to many people. Mountain lion numbers are raising and each lion's territory will have to be monitored by humans when that territory is near human neighborhoods. The San Gabriel's and the famous Santa Monica Mountains, for the Nat Geo photos of cougars, will need constant mentoring so cougar populations do not impact established male lion territories.
Tax money for this close watch could be raised with occasional mountain lion hunts. Such activities is loathsome for some of us, but it may be an answer to the problems arising between Wild and human interests. A U.S.-wide ranging monitoring system fostering wildlife and human careers and some people's hunting sport, is an idea for all the edges of wild areas in the world.
© 2009 Sherry Venegas