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VENTURA : Janitors Say Mountain Lion Spooked Them

Something spooked the janitors at Arroyo Verde Park one night this week.

As they were cleaning the park’s northernmost restroom late Tuesday, they heard an animal growl and knock about in the brush. On closer inspection, they discovered they were being watched--by a cat.

A big cat. So big, in fact, that they believe it was a mountain lion. And they say the big cat stalked them as they moved from one bathroom to another.

“I saw its shadow and you could tell it was a big animal,” said Jose Contreras, one of the three janitors who saw the cat. “It didn’t sound like a coyote. It was growling kind of deep.”

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Contreras said he and his co-workers have changed their restroom cleaning strategy at Arroyo Verde. They don’t go when it’s dark. And they never clean alone.

“We aren’t taking any chances,” Contreras said.

The reported sighting was enough to prompt Parks Supervisor Jerry Revard to visit Arroyo Verde in Ventura on Thursday. He scoured the area where the cat was seen, looking for tracks and other traces of mountain lion life.

Revard, who was unable to verify the sighting, is unconvinced that Contreras and the others had a close encounter with a mountain lion. Still, he said, he intends to post warning signs at the park and make local schools and Ventura College aware of the incident.

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The reported sighting was the second in Ventura County in as many weeks.

Last week, Joe and Margaret Balint reported seeing a mountain lion roaming their Santa Rosa Valley neighborhood.

The sighting alarmed them so much that they circulated flyers to warn their neighbors about the incident. They learned that others had also seen the animal.

“It was really scary looking,” Margaret Balint said Thursday. “Fish and Game said they don’t normally bother people and that they are really afraid of us. This one didn’t seem to be that afraid.”

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