After the second sighting of a cougar at Walnut Creek Park in two months, mounted reserve officers from the county Parks and Recreation Department have intensified patrols of the area on weekends.
"The only thing we're concerned about is kids who wander off the main trails into the brush," said Olene Ewell, superintendent of the adjacent Frank G. Bonelli Regional County Park.
At a briefing Monday, wildlife biologist Bruce Cahill of the county Agricultural Commissioner's Department told park officials he had discovered tracks of a male cougar. A female is already living in the parks.
"Isn't that exciting?" said Ewell, who supervises the 2,108 acres of county-owned wilderness at Bonelli and Walnut Creek. "We may (one day) have a little family there."
Twenty new signs are being posted throughout both parks this week, requiring that children be accompanied by adults and asking visitors to report any further sightings. Some previously erected signs--35 were put up last year--have been stolen, Ewell said.
Park officials were reminded to keep the equestrian and hiking trails free of trash that may attract the cougars, also known as mountain lions, Cahill said. He has been tracking what he believes is an 80-pound female cougar that has been living in the parks for at least five years.
"She's never bothered anybody," he said, noting that the cat has always taken off at the mere sight of people.
"Two years ago, there was a male but he left," Cahill said, adding that he did not know whether the new paw print belongs to the same male that wandered down from the San Gabriel Mountains before.
"What we guess is he's coming in to mate," he said.
Cahill said the female cougar is actually an asset because her dining habits are helping to keep the skunk, coyote and raccoon populations in check. Skunks, with their reputation as scavengers and as potential carriers of rabies, sometimes become a nuisance. Coyotes have swiped family pets from backyards in Glendale and Pasadena, he said.
"Fifty years ago we used to have lots of (wild animals) out there, but within recent history this is the only cougar living year-round" at the park, Cahill said of the female cat.
Added Ewell, "There's enough room for all of us as long as we follow precautions."