Not too long ago I had the opportunity to live in a small RV park in Anza, California. To say that some of the residents of the park were colorful would probably be somewhat of an understatement but on the whole I found it to be a rewarding experience.
I became friends with a wonderful elderly couple that lived next door to me and we had coffee on a regular basis, sitting out on chairs in their yard. Across from their yard was a large brush covered field with a small path that led into it. I have a small Jack Russell and started walking her down the little dirt path in the field.
The elderly couple warned me that at times a small family of Mountain Lions came to the park to hunt rabbits that were plentiful on the grass, but being a longtime resident of Anza, I wasn’t too concerned. I would walk down the path to a certain point where there was a nice view of the valley, giving myself and my little dog a nice exercise.
One morning as I was walking down the path I came across a set of large footprints. Stopping to inspect them I discovered them to be the prints of what I would call a large lion track. The tracks were large enough to make me return to my home and get a ruler which I laid down across the track and took a picture with my phone. The tracks measured five and a half inches across.
There was a pond at the park surrounded by a 5-foot tall fence. Domestic geese were kept in the pond as well as a number of wild ducks that always came in (as a matter of fact a lot of these so called wild ducks made the pond their year-round home). On many nights, especially in the winter you could hear a ruckus being raised in the pond; and some of the birds would end up missing. We could only surmise that a large predator had jumped the fence and gotten the birds. It wasn’t until sometime later that another neighbor of mine told me that he had seen a large mountain lion in the pond one early morning that we knew for sure what was happening.
As I said, I had become friends with this nice elderly couple next door. They were kind enough to watch my little dog on occasion. It was on one of these occasions that the wife decided that she would take my dog on a short walk down the path that led into the field. She felt safe doing this because it was late in the morning, probably about 10 a.m.
At this time, I should probably explain that my dog is blind due to complications of diabetes. So my dog did not see the large lion which was lying under a scrub oak tree as the two approached. The lady who was walking my dog just happened to see some movement out of the side of her eye and when she looked saw the lion. This lady was great. She understood immediately what she must do.
Moving slowly, she reached down and picked up the dog to hold it in her arms. Ordinarily this may not have been the best move, but because the big cat was just lounging and barely paying attention to them and because she feared the dog would smell the cat and start barking. After picking up the dog she did the right thing again by not turning her back on the cat but by walking slowly backward until she was some distance from it then she slowly turned and walked back to her home.
Over the years, this lion and her offspring have visited the park and the only incident other than one time when a resident left some food out overnight in a screened in porch (which the porch was torn and food missing the next day) this lion and family have not caused any harm. Which isn’t to say that a lot of the local cattle ranchers haven’t been plagued with losing as many as 20 calves in a season due to these creatures, but that is another story).
I moved from the park and now live in a small home in Anza, but my two friends come to visit weekly. Last week they told me that they had a new neighbor, a man and his small dog. When they saw the man allowing his dog to wander freely at night without a leash and saw it approaching the brush field they warned the man that they had a “resident lion” His reply was “yeah right” and he turned his back and walked away.
Sometimes you really should heed the advice of those that have lived in the area when you move someplace new. Especially the elderly.