Mountain Lion Kills Pet Dog on Malibu Campus Amid Increase in Sightings

A mountain lion attacked and killed a pet dog on a university campus near Malibu last Friday amid a recent increase in sightings of the animals in the area.

A statement posted to Pepperdine University's Emergency Information page said Pepperdine Public Safety officers found the dog's remains on Monday, and they have been removed.

The mountain lion snatched the pet dog from the backyard of a university staffer living in the faculty/staff condos, the university said.

Pepperdine University said they contacted both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Los Angeles County Police after the incident.

The CDFW told the college it was likely the mountain lion had since moved on from the area. Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare and Pepperdine University said attacks on pets on campus are also uncommon. However, they are being sighted more often around campus, according to the college.

A statement posted on the university website said: "Despite increased mountain lion sightings in recent years, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) scientists continue to affirm they do not perceive the mountain lion behavior as a threat to human activity on campus."

The animals typically shun humans and urban areas, making the incident at Pepperdine University highly unusual.

Commenting on the threat posed to humans by mountain lions, Josh Rosenau, a conservation advocate with the Mountain Lion Foundation, previously told Newsweek: "Any sort of danger to people remains incredibly rare. Like, comparable to the odds of your being struck by lightning on your birthday."

He said: "A lot of folk don't realize how fearful mountain lions are of people. Often, people think that if they see a mountain lion, it must mean that they are in danger. But what we see in those events, and what we have to conclude by looking at the number of mountain lions that exist even in heavily populated areas, is that mountain lions want to avoid people and don't see us as prey."

In addition to not being a major threat to humans, mountain lions are also important to ecosystems in the Americas, as was highlighted by a recent study published in Mammal Review on January 18. It showed that the species are key ecological brokers that are believed to interact with more species than any other animal, helping balance finely tuned ecosystems throughout the U.S. and across the Western Hemisphere.

Mountain lions are protected in California, and are found throughout the state. The mountain lion population in the U.S. is estimated at between 20,000 to 40,000 animals.

Pepperdine University said that the CDFW plans to host two sessions on mountain lion safety in the area as part of their response to the incident, with one addressed to homeowners on campus scheduled for February 23.

Stock image of a mountain lion
Stock image of a mountain lion. The animals are found throughout much of California but attacks on pets and humans are considered rare. mari_art/Getty Images