Thursday, April 25, 2013

Coach sights mountain lion in bluffs

By Midge Reller
Cardinal Staff

A mountain lion was reportedly seen by a coach in the bluffs by St. Yon’s Valley on March 27, according to Campus Safety Director Phillip Gaddis.

Saint Mary’s University students and faculty received an email notification from Gaddis about the sighting immediately after the report was made. “The important thing is to get the word out so that if people are planning to go in that area, they go in groups for safety,” said Gaddis.

Since the sighting, there have not been any notifications sent to students and faculty declaring that the bluffs are safe. “I don’t know that it’s ever safe,” said Gaddis. “There is always a potential threat. Whether it’s mountain lions, bears, snakes or falls,” he said. Campus Safety has not been aware of any additional mountain lion sightings since March 27.

Although Gaddis has never had a report of a mountain lion on campus, he has heard of reports on outlying areas. “DNR [Department of Natural Resources] was not surprised when I made the report. It’s spring, and that’s when they travel,” said Gaddis. “There have been reports almost annually of mountain lions and bears,” he said.

According to Gaddis, the animals are not generally aggressive, but they have attacked in places during drought seasons. This is when there is very little game for them, and the lions feel that people have invaded their territory.

The large size of these wild animals makes them dangerous, according to Gaddis. “An adult male can get up to 6.5 ft. and 150 lbs.,” he said. “Mountain lions and bears are more afraid of people than we are of them. We just have to be cautious when we’re in the woods. If they are cornered, there’s a lot to contend with.”

The news of the sighting did not shock Susan Drazkowski, assistant director of the SMU Toner Student Center. “Mountain lions are not as unusual as it was five years ago,” said Drazkowski.

Darlene Paulson, director of the SMU Toner Student Center said the sighting verified her decision not to visit the bluff trails. ”I used to ski and hike up there, but then one time I saw a rattlesnake,” Paulson said. “Maybe I would go up again if the mountain lion ate the rattlesnake, because I think I would rather see a mountain lion than a snake.”

Gaddis said that people are not generally as aware as they should be when travelling in the woods. “It’s just common sense,” he said. “Most of the time a wild animal in the woods is going to know you’re there before you get to them.”

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