California Park Closes After Mountain Lion Spotted Stalking Young Girl

A California park has closed due to "mountain lion activity" after a family spotted one of the big cats stalking a young girl during a hike.

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in southern Orange County will remain closed until further notice, out of "an abundance of caution," park officials said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The sighting of the big cat occurred on Sunday while the family were walking in the Four Corners area of the 2,500-acre park, which is located around 10 miles east of Irvine.

The family said that the big cat appeared to be stalking a young girl in the group, KABC reported. Eventually, a park official managed to scare the mountain lion away, and no one was harmed.

Officials will now monitor the situation to see whether or not the mountain lion moves into more rural territory.

Neighbors who live in Modjeska Canyon, near to the park, said they suspected the cat in question was responsible for the killing of livestock animals in recent weeks.

Another local, Jim Carter, said a mountain lion had killed and snatched two llama from his property in separate incidents in late January and earlier this month.

"This really keeps me from hiking in the forest, at least toward the evening hours, with my dog," Carter told KABC.

In addition, one local resident captured video footage of a mountain lion jumping though front yards in December, 2020.

Human encounters with mountain lions are rare, and the chances of an attack are extremely small, but wildlife authorities urge people to be alert in mountain lion country.

"Mountain lions are unpredictable," a spokesperson for OC Parks told Patch. "They have been known to attack without warning."

In January 2020, a three-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion in Whiting Ranch park while on a hike with his family, The Mercury News reported.

The boy survived the attack and recovered from his injuries. Wildlife officials captured and killed the cat responsible.

The park was also the site of a fatal mountain lion attack in 2004, when 35year-old mountain biker was mauled and killed by one of the big cats in the Four Corners area. In the past 100 years, three Californians have been killed by mountain lions.

Mountain lions (Puma concolor) are a large cat species native to the Americas, with a range stretching from Canada's Yukon Territory to the Strait of Magellan in the south. In the U.S., they are mostly found in 14 western states, inhabiting environments including mountains, forests, deserts and wetlands.

These large cats—which are also commonly referred to as cougars, pumas, panthers or catamounts—vary significantly in size depending on where they are found. Mountain lions closer to the poles tend to be larger than those living near the equator.

But in general, males tend to weigh between 115 and 220 pounds and females weigh between 64 and 141 pounds, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

A mountain lion
Stock image showing a mountain lion. iStock