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Updated: Los Gatos Woman Finds Dead Mountain Lion

Young puma is found under deck of home on Old Ranch Road in mountainous community; cause of death unknown, but no foul play, sign of attack, bullet, or road burn is detected.

The dead mountain lion found Sunday afternoon Dec. 1 under the deck of a home on Old Ranch Road near Hutchinson. Courtesy Lauri J. Vaughan
The dead mountain lion found Sunday afternoon Dec. 1 under the deck of a home on Old Ranch Road near Hutchinson. Courtesy Lauri J. Vaughan

Update: 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4: UC Santa Cruz’s Pumas Project field biologist Chris Fust said today determining the cause of death of a young mountain lion found on Old Ranch Road in the Los Gatos Mountains will be difficult since the animal was too far decayed.

Looking at the peripheral facts of its death, however, Fust said the puma likely died of natural causes.

The cat was young, about one year old, and was therefore still dependent on its mother to hunt, Fust noted.

"If the mother died then so, too, would the kitten," he said.

Likewise other natural diseases such as pneumonia may have been a contributing factor to the kitten's death, he added.

"I believe the take away from such events as this is how close pumas live and interact in our community. We are all connected and just because people have built neighborhoods in the woods does not mean that they are isolated from wild animals and their natural cycles," he said.

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Los Gatos Mountain resident Lauri J. Vaughan found a dead mountain lion Sunday Dec. 1 under the deck of her Old Ranch Road home.

The young lion was first spotted by her 17-year-old son who discovered it around midday Sunday and called her to figure out what to do to remove the carcass, Vaughan said.

She contacted Native Animal Rescue, whose officials weren’t interested since the lion was dead, she said.

She then emailed several agencies, including the UC Santa Cruz’s Pumas Project website.

Within an hour, she received a response from its director and later that evening a graduate student called her to arrange removal of the animal Monday morning, she explained.

Vaughan said the carcass was retrieved in coordination with officials from the California Department of Fish and Game.

Santa Cruz Pumas' representative Chris Fust came to her property, off Hutchinson Road, and put the animal's body in a bag and told her it’s illegal to own any part of a puma in California and possession can result in a $2,000 fine.

Vaughan said it's not clear why the lion died.

Fust told Vaughan there were no obvious signs of either an attack by another lion, or bullets, or road burn, evidence of it being struck by a car.

The only possible conclusions as to what killed the animal are either starvation, disease or possible poison, she said.

However, since the animal was young, Fust said it’s not uncommon for yearlings to die of starvation if they haven’t learned to hunt effectively.

The body was taken to UC Santa Cruz and would likely be sent to UC Davis for a necropsy to determine exact cause of death, she added.

Vaughan said her husband and son saw lions separately on Old Ranch Road  from their property each once this year.

Two years ago, they saw two cats together with a kill on Old Ranch Road.

Her neighbors have told Vaughan they’ve seen lions nearby as well this year.

Neighbors also report tracks and scat fairly frequently, she said.

Fust said the Pumas Project tracks one lion that travels in the area where she lives and that the animal she found was not wearing a tracking collar. 

Fust told Vaughan he would contact her when and if a cause of death was determined, but that it could be several weeks. 

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Jeremy Barousse December 03, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Poor cat, sounds kinda scary, but I guess that's what you sign up for when you live in the LG Mountains!
Ethan Harmer December 03, 2013 at 06:59 PM
We forget that nature is staring us in the face when we live out here.
Marilyn Leonard December 04, 2013 at 12:46 AM
It's their home, and we are the intruders. So sad to lose a young cat like this. We all love the rugged hills and rural atmosphere and then act like the animals shouldn't be there. It's a shame when the natural habitat dies out.
Ed Dee December 04, 2013 at 10:54 AM
Some CA mountain lions have been fitted with GPS collars for tracking by state biologists. Most people would be surprised to learn that even in populated urban areas (like LG) the pumas will come into backyards and drink from swimming pools in the wee am hours... ...it not just a rural living phenomenon. We are lucky to still have them.

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