Around Town: Don't act like a turkey in the New Year

I’d rather see a bear than a mountain lion. Mountain lions kill quick, so there’s no chance to call 911. Bears have cute names like “Meatball” and “Smokey.” The city of Glendale has never had a Rose Parade float featuring a mountain lion, but the “Meatball” float in Wednesday’s event was a natural contender.

In La Cañada we have the age-old “is it a bobcat or is it a cougar” debate. The humane society says that most “mountain lion” sightings turn out to be bobcats.

In 2012, we saw what was either a large bobcat or small mountain lion. A nice lady from the Pasadena Humane Society came out to check. She reassured us that it was a bobcat.

“You live in bobcat territory,” she explained.

The vegetation — a low chaparral invites rabbits. Bobcats eat rabbits, she said. Cougars eat deer.

“Did you see the tail?” she asked.

No. Too excited. But the cat’s ears were round. It was large. We couldn’t see the tail.

The nice lady explained that the bobcat’s ears are round. They look pointy because they have tufts of hair on the ear. The hair falls out when the animals are sick. She explained that local bobcats eat gophers. Some of the gophers are ill from gopher poison. The bobcats get sick from the poison and then their ear tuft hair falls out. Without the ear tufts, their ears look round.

We took the information under advisement. Eventually, the animal returned and we saw the bobbed tail. It had round ears, but the tail was short. It was a bobcat.

This year, there’s a new cat in town. It’s large, with a medium length tail. It has round ears and stalks in broad daylight. It is clearly a mountain lion.

The lion hangs out behind the YMCA, boldly hunting in bobcat territory. Maybe it eats bobcats now, instead of deer?

My friends have cautioned me to take care with Miss Audrey Hepburn, our black Lab adopted from the Pasadena Humane Society. The biggest danger from feline predators is to pets. In 2001, a mountain lion was caught on Lyans Drive in La Cañada. For several months, the neighborhood dogs and cats had gone missing, one after the other.

Apparently, there are very few attacks on people. The California Department of Fish and Game maintains a list of “confirmed” cougar attacks on people. There have been 14 attacks since 1986, with only three fatalities. The agency reports that “two additional incidents have been reported by the media as attacks. However, they do not fit the criteria of verifiable attacks on humans and were not confirmed. One incident involved a turkey hunter who was camouflaged and calling for turkeys when a mountain lion approached from behind. Immediately after the mountain lion confronted the hunter and realized that the hunter was not a turkey, the lion ran away. This is not judged to be an attack on a human. Every indication suggests that if the hunter had not been camouflaged and calling like a turkey, the mountain lion would have avoided him.”

Note to self: Don’t act like a turkey and leash Miss Hepburn.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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