Officials issued warnings to residents Wednesday after another confirmed mountain lion sighting in east Turlock this week.
The Turlock Unified School District, in a recorded call and a posting on its Facebook page, urged parents to drive or escort their children to and from school as a precaution.
It isn’t clear if the mountain lion was the same one spotted a week-and-a-half ago, a few blocks away. And if it is, there’s no telling if it has been in town the whole time or if it left and returned, said Kyle Orr, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
An off-duty police officer with another agency reported seeing a mountain lion at 1:04 a.m. Tuesday in the area of 1900 N. Quincy Road, Turlock police spokeswoman Mayra Lewis said. That’s roughly four blocks from the area where two confirmed sightings were reported Sept. 21.
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“About four minutes later, we got a call from the California Highway Patrol of people reporting to them they had seen a mountain lion at Santa Fe Avenue and Zeering Road in Denair,” Lewis said. “That’s all plausible. A mountain lion could have gotten there that fast.”
Wednesday, the Turlock Unified School District posted a message to its Facebook page again encouraging parents to drive their children to and from school over the next several days, “as well as have them walk in groups to and from the Julien, Dutcher Middle and Turlock High campuses, as a precautionary measure.”
School officials said they would remain in touch with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, “and updated information will be provided to parents as it becomes available.”
Several other unconfirmed reports have surfaced since the Sept. 21 incident, but officials said they believed the mountain lion had moved on.
Lewis said there still has been no sign of aggression from any mountain lion in the area. One resident called police because he believed his dog had been attacked, but authorities could not confirm that happened.
“We didn’t find any indication a mountain lion was out there, footprints or anything other than the homeowner assuming a mountain lion attacked his dog.”
Orr said there is no way to know whether the mountain lion seen this week is the same one seen earlier and caught on video along California Avenue. “It’s possible it’s been staying in the same area,” he said. “They’re very territorial.”
Mountain lions are elusive and can move great distances very quickly. However, Orr said, it could be a different cat.
“There’s no way to know with any certitude,” he said.
Lewis and Orr urged anyone who sees a mountain lion in a residential or commercial area to call 911.
However, Orr said, quoting a favorite phrase of Fish and Wildlife biologists: “Mountain lions see people more often than people see mountain lions.”