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Solstice Canyon reopens following hiker's mountain lion encounter

A Southern California hiking trail was closed briefly this week following a report of a mountain lion encounter.

Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area reopened two days after someone walking a dog told authorities a mountain lion attempted to attack the dog. The person was injured when they intervened.

“An individual walking a small dog on a leash was injured when a young mountain lion attempted to attack the dog,” according to a statement from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “While intervening, the person received a scratch and puncture wound on their hand. National Park Service rangers provided first aid on scene.”

The dog was not injured.

A second young mountain lion also was seen in the area.

Solstice Canyon was closed until 8 a.m. Thursday, allowing wildlife officials to search the area.

“Mountain lions are unpredictable, wild animals,” the agency said in an Instagram post. “While conflicts with humans are rare, there is always a risk when you are recreating in areas used by mountain lions.”

There are about 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in California, but wildlife officials call that a crude estimate without an ongoing statewide study. More than half of the state is considered prime habitat for the big cats, which can be found wherever deer are present.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife receives hundreds of mountain lion sighting reports each year. Few result in mountain lions being identified as posing an imminent threat to public safety, the department said. Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare and their nature is to avoid humans.

Here’s a full list of recommendations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of what to do during a mountain lion encounter.

  • Do not hike, bike, or jog alone. Stay alert on trails.
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active – dawn, dusk, and at night.
  • Keep a close watch on small children.
  • Off leash dogs on trails are at increased risk of becoming prey for a mountain lion.
  • Never approach a mountain lion. Give them an escape route.
  • DO NOT RUN. Stay calm. Running may trigger chase, catch and kill response. Do not turn your back. Face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms, or opening your jacket if wearing one; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
  • Do not crouch down or bend over. Squatting puts you in a vulnerable position of appearing much like a 4-legged prey animal.
  • Be vocal; however, speak calmly and do not use high pitched tones or high pitch screams.
  • Teach others how to behave during an encounter. Anyone who runs may initiate an attack.
  • If a lion attacks, fight back. Research on mountain lion attacks suggests that many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, garden tools, even an ink pen or bare hands. Try to stay on your feet. If knocked down, try to protect head and neck.
  • If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.
  • Report unusual mountain lion behavior to your local CDFW regional office.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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