Portola Valley is probably one of the most sought-after areas to live in, in California. It is known for its expensive real estate and the highest household incomes in the country. Even the public schools are top-notch. The neighborhood has a population of 4,592. It has a quiet, almost rural suburban feel to it, and crime is nearly nonexistent. This is a place of modern luxury with environmentally friendly designer mansions, lush gardens, and ultra-modern equine facilities. Living in Portola Valley offers residents peace of mind. This is the place where tech-millionaires raise their kids. This is a safe place where children can play outside without any dangers or threats lurking around. The safest place on earth, one would think …
Except for the cougar on your front porch!
In May 2021, the first Mountain lion was photographed in the residential area of Portola, Live footage of this incident was posted on Twitter by Andrea Nakano.
I just talked with the homeowner in the Portola District that captured the footage of the mountain lion. She gave me the original video which is a bit clearer than the one I posted earlier. pic.twitter.com/HBEZnwyI9A
— Andrea Nakano (@AndreaKPIX) May 19, 2021
Where do the Mountain lions come from?
Mountain lions are known to inhabit the foothills and mountains of Santa Cruz. California is home to 4000 to 6000 of the national Mountain lion population. Mountain Lions in California live mainly of deer, but up to 35% of their diet can be from feral hogs. Mountain lions are reported to be the only predator that uses feral hogs as prey regularly. The amount of hogs in a lion’s diet depends on the density of prey in the area. Mountain lions with their clever hunting skills can catch and kill quite a big pig without any difficulty. The feral pig population in the Santa Cruz foothills is growing by the day, and Mountain lions enjoy easy prey when it is at hand. As the feral pig population moves into neighborhoods, the mountain lions are sure to follow.
Why are they coming into the suburbs?
The current situation in the Santa Cruz mountains is very volatile and not conducive to any wildlife conservation. A combination of factors has contributed to a migration of wild animals from the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains towards the Bay area.
Santa Cruz is currently experiencing an “extreme drought” according to the most recently released U.S. Drought Monitor webpage. Only 18.75 inches of rain has fallen so far this season in comparison to the 44 inches of other years. The mountains are dry. In April, researchers with the San Jose State University Fire Weather Research Laboratory were unable to take new clippings when they climbed to the South Bay peak of Mount Umunhum. There was no new growth to clip anywhere.
The 2020–2021 winter was the third driest on record, according to the California Department of Water Resources. — in an interview with SFGate
When the moisture level in plants is low and clippings of new growth are scarce it is setting the stage for field fires and this is exactly what happened here.
In August 2020, 86,500 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains were destroyed by fires. On 2 May 2021, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, in Santa Cruz Mountain was on fire. On Memorial Day there was another fire at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. On 9 June 2021, San Mateo County firefighters burned 7 combined acres to reduce fire fuels, maintain access for inspections, and provide training for firefighters.
The deer, that is left and remains after all these bushfires are fleeing, the feral pigs living in the hills around San Jose are migrating to the greener pastures of landfills and golf courses in the residential neighborhoods. The water levels of all the reservoirs are depleting, and the fact that Lake Anderson was drained, does not help the situation at all. The natural habitat, of our Mountain lion, has changed. The sheep in our pastures, the chickens in our coops, and the garbage in our bins have become the new habitat. Forces of nature have created a situation where San Jose suburbs might be the new habitat for Mountain lions.
What can residents do?
Cats are very clever animals. They are creatures of comfort, they love dozing in the sunshine, they expand their territory when the situation calls for it, and they will become your next-door neighbor in the blink of an eye if their food and water source are on your doorstep. The California Department of Fish & Game has given guidelines with regards to this situation. Living With California Mountain Lions. If you see a mountain lion in your suburb you can call the ACC emergency line at (415) 554–9400.
We are part of nature, even when we live in modern mansions in Portola, work in Silicon Valley and earn annually more than all the residents in a small town in Africa. We are sharing this planet with wild animals. Adjust your life to accommodate them or contribute to funds to improve conservation in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Nature is always in balance.
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