Ecologists have discovered at least nine different mountain lions in the East Bay hills in an area east of Fremont and south of Livermore in the Sunol/Ohlone Regional Wilderness.
Normally it’s not a surprise for mountain lion sightings to be spotted in the area, but in this instance the density is high, which is welcome news to ecologists.
The East Bay Regional Park District set up cameras throughout the area, and in the last two years more than 400 pictures have captured cougars doing what they do when humans aren’t around.
Experts have identified nine different mountain lions living within 11 square kilometers.
"That’s a phenomenal density for that area,” said Carolyn Jones with the East Bay Regional Park District. Jones believes the mountain lion population is a good sign of a healthy habitat. "It’s an area that’s very wild and there’s plenty of deer for them to eat. They seem very happy.”
A happy mountain lion doesn’t need to search far and wide for food, which is why Jones said hikers should be alert, but not scared.
In the event you do come face to face with one of these cats, the advice is to "back away slowly, don’t take your eyes off of it," said Jones. "Don’t run away. Just very slowly back away.”
Although there are mountain lion warning signs for hikers entering trails in the Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, hiker Kevin Payne was surprised to learn he was hiking in an actual mountain lion breeding ground.
"They will hide in the oak trees there so I keep an eye above me so I’m not taken as some food,” he said.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, mountain lion attacks on humans are rare. There have been three fatal attacks in the last 30 years.