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Lions Thriving, Biologist Says as 3rd Cat Seen

Times Staff Writer

The recent capture of two mountain lions in Orange County and a reported sighting Tuesday of a third large cat indicates a stable and growing mountain lion population in the county’s backcountry, a state wildlife biologist said.

Ron Hein, a state Fish and Game Department wildlife biologist, said he has observed indications in the Santa Ana Mountains that these large predators “are increasing in numbers.”

“At least we have a population that is maintaining itself and some indications that they are increasing,” Hein said in an interview Tuesday.

On Tuesday, an Orange County animal control spokesman said officers searched an area in Mission Viejo for a third cougar reported to have been spotted by a motorist about 7:30 a.m. near Los Alisos Boulevard and Vista del Lago. However, the animal was not found, Lt. Kevin Whelan said.

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Two Snared So Far

Two mountain lions have been captured in populated areas of Orange County in a little more than two weeks. On Monday, one was captured in an unincorporated foothill area east of Tustin. The first was caught wandering into Mission Viejo from the nearby foothills May 25.

The two animals were released in the Cleveland National Forest, officials said.

Both were healthy young adult males about 2 years old, leading Hein to suggest that they descended to lower elevations to stake out their own hunting territories, rather than to search for food or water, as earlier suggested by a county animal officer.

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“It’s common for young males to get booted out of the area when it’s time to find its own territory.”

Hein said he didn’t disagree with the county officer’s opinion but only suggested another explanation as to the sudden presence of the large predators.


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