2 hikers fend off pair of mountain lions
WildlifeFebruary 05, 2010|By Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer
Two men on a hike in a San Mateo County park came face-to-face with a pair of mountain lions, swung a stick to try to drive them away and hustled back to their car as the cougars followed them, state officials say.

The incident took place Sunday at Pescadero Creek County Park near La Honda and was verified by game wardens from the state Department of Fish and Game. Officials closed the park until Thursday as they looked for the mountain lions, without success.

The incident was one of the most dramatic verified showdowns in the Bay Area between humans and the expanding mountain lion population.

"We found actual tracks and our tracking dogs picked up on the scent right off," said game warden Patrick Foy. "It was very obvious to us it was a credible story with real lions. We put the hounds on the ground and they struck a scent immediately.

"Unfortunately, the lions were successful in escaping," Foy said. "There's two aggressive lions ... out there."

Residents warned
San Mateo County officials put out calls to all residents in the vicinity of Loma Mar and La Honda, the settlements closest to the county park, and posted warnings. After being closed for four days, the park reopened Thursday.

The county issued another alert that a mountain lion had been seen Wednesday night in La Honda, a couple of miles north of the park. There was no way of knowing whether it was one of the lions that confronted the hikers.

There have been rare attacks by mountain lions on hikers, mountain bikers and joggers elsewhere in California, but there has not been a confirmed attack in the Bay Area since a rabid cougar mauled a Sunday school teacher and one of her students near Morgan Hill in 1909. The two died of rabies.

Hiked off trail
Sunday's face-off started when two brothers in their early 50s headed out for a hike at Pescadero Creek County Park, a remote, lightly visited open space with no facilities.

The two brothers, who asked not to be named in a Fish and Game report on the incident, told game wardens they occasionally enjoy straying from the trail "to see what's on the other side of the bush," according to Foy.

They hiked on Camp Pomponio Road, which goes through middle of park, and about 10 minutes in, wandered a few hundred yards off the trail, Foy said.

Near a creek, in a clearing at the edge of a densely vegetated area, a mountain lion emerged and walked right up to one of the hikers.