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Coexisting in lion country

Good fences not only make good neighbors, but an electrified fence can keep predators from eating livestock.

At a town meeting Thursday night in Rough and Ready, residents gathered to learn about predators like mountain lions and coyotes. The meeting was organized by the Rough and Ready Chamber of Commerce after numerous sightings of mountain lions and attacks on livestock and pets in the area.

“These animals are opportunists,” said Brian Steiger, a biologist with the Nevada County Department of Agriculture. “Let’s face it, these cats are adapting really well to these environments.”



The concerns voiced by about two dozen people Thursday night were primarily about mountain lions. Several people said they have seen the big cats in the area and were worried that an adult or child could be attacked.

On Jan. 8 in Orange County, a mountain biker was killed by a mountain lion after the rider stopped to fix his bike chain. Another cyclist was attacked but survived.




Steiger advised anyone who encounters a mountain lion to remain calm, wave his or her arms, make noise and try to appear as large as possible. He said not to run because that could spur the cat to chase.

While mountain lions are nocturnal, they are also active at dawn and dusk. To lessen the chances of an unwanted lion encounter, Steiger said people should avoid hiking, running or walking alone at those times.

Rough and Ready resident Linda Anderson had her 44-pound Akita-chow mix carried out of its 8-foot-tall kennel in November. Now she is more cautious around her property.

“I used to walk between my barn and house at night without a flashlight,” Anderson said. “I don’t do that anymore.”

As far as keeping livestock safe, Steiger said the best protection is to put animals in a barn at night. If that isn’t possible, he said installing lights and clearing brush away from pastures and pens is helpful.

“Try to limit cover so they can’t stalk,” Steiger said. “Try to make them uncomfortable.”

Then there is electric fencing. Nancy and Jack Henderson have lived in Nevada County for 35 years. Most of that time they have raised sheep, a favorite meal for mountain lions and coyotes, but haven’t lost one.

Their defense for some 30 ewes on six acres is an electrified fence. And the Hendersons are experts. They have installed electric fences around garbage dumps in Alaska to keep giant brown bears from scavenging.

Surprisingly, the Hendersons aren’t as concerned with losing sheep to mountain lions or coyotes as they are domestic dogs.

“It really is more of a problem in terms of depredation,” Nancy Henderson said. “People need to be responsible for their dogs.”

Built properly, electric fences deliver a non-lethal shock to predators, including mountain lions and coyotes. Once shocked, the intelligent animals will avoid the area. While that may be deemed cruel by some people, a mountain lion that kills livestock can be legally tracked and killed in California.


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