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Dog Holds Cougar at Bay as Master Makes Getaway

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As a dog living in a mobile home park deep in the Angeles National Forest, Tara had chased them all--rabbits, coyotes, even a 7-foot rattlesnake.

So when a mountain lion weighing three to four times her 35 pounds appeared to be coming for her master, the feisty 3-year-old mongrel never hesitated, according to owner Danya Nordenstrom.

She charged the big cat.

Nordenstrom said her husband, Mike, was walking Tara about 75 feet from their trailer Thursday when the 6-foot-long cougar started chasing them. Nordenstrom sprinted safely home with Tara holding off the pursuer, barking and lunging at it, Danya Nordenstrom said.

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After one final warning yip, she too fled back to the trailer, unscathed.

Nordenstrom said Friday that her husband, a transportation coordinator on the set of a movie being shot nearby, would be away in the Angeles forest all day and night, unavailable for comment.

But she had no trouble recalling his reaction to the cat encounter. “I knew he was scared because of the voice,” Nordenstrom recalled cheerily. “He yelled, ‘It’s the lion!’ ”

Authorities marveled at Tara’s bravery. “The mountain lion goes, ‘What runs away from me? Food!’ ” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Howard Fairchild. “And then the dog takes a stand against the damn thing. Pretty amazing.”

Domestic animals usually are on the short end of such confrontations, animal experts say.

“We get a lot of calls about rattlesnakes biting dogs or mountain lions eating dogs or cats,” said Gerald Barnes, a kennel worker at the Castaic outpost of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control.

There has been a spate of wild animal sightings in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys recently. Earlier this week, a black bear estimated to weigh about 300 pounds startled Newhall residents but eluded capture.

Last fall, a string of mountain lion sightings--and some devoured pets--were reported in foothill communities around the rim of the San Fernando Valley.

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Sharon Gayle, office manager of the 85-unit Paradise Ranch Mobile Home Park where the Nordenstroms live, said she had to warn residents not to leave garbage, pets or food outside after a mountain lion sighting last month. Other tenants have expressed no worries about Thursday night’s chase, she said.

Danya Nordenstrom said Tara was not spooked by the standoff.

“She’s very protective by nature,” she said, adding the reverse is also true. “We always keep her in at night. We never walk too far after sunset, only to the end of the driveway.

“We know what’s out there.”

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