Authorities have not yet captured a mountain lion – or lions – seen in the area in recent weeks. But Thursday morning, they did get something tangible: a paw print.
Turlock police responded to a call from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department regarding a mountain lion sighting on Lester Road between Tuolumne Road and Hawkeye Avenue at 7:18 a.m. Thursday.
As with all of the other reports of sightings, officers could not locate the cat.
“But they found tracks,” Turlock police Officer Mayra Lewis said.
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The sighting prompted Denair Unified School District Superintendent Aaron Rosander to issue a call to parents, advising them of what happened.
“While the situation was not reported as an immediate threat to our schools, the matter is being monitored and my office is receiving updates as information is made available,” he said in a transcript of the recording provided to The Modesto Bee.
“While mountain lions are not necessarily a threat to humans when practical and reasonable safeguards are taken, we believe it is best to err on the side of safety by exercising caution until this matter is ultimately resolved,” Rosander said. “Please know that our schools will continue to keep a watchful eye over our students during school hours.”
Thursday morning’s incident was the latest confirmed sighting of a mountain lion. Four other reports were received Wednesday and Thursday, authorities said. The other four are closer to the center of town than earlier sightings.
At 11:14 p.m. Wednesday, a guard at Emanuel Medical Center called in to report seeing a mountain lion, Lewis said.
The guard had been on the way to check on a homeless woman who stays in the area.
“The guard saw the woman running, then sees the cat,” Lewis said. The guard honked the car horn and the mountain lion ran into a nearby residential neighborhood on Colorado Avenue.
About two hours later, a caller reported seeing a lion in the 700 block of Wayside Drive, near Olive Avenue.
At 12:20 p.m. Thursday, a caller reported seeing what could be a mountain lion lying in a field in the 3700 block of Colorado Avenue.
And at 7:30 p.m., officers responded to a report of a sighting at Drexel and Temple avenues near the intersection of Tuolumne and Geer roads.
Lewis said police contacted the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to advise officers there of the new sightings.
Reports had quieted down after a mountain lion was spotted on the east side of town on the evening of Sept. 21. But an off-duty law enforcement officer from another agency spotted a mountain lion along Quincy Road early Tuesday, followed by reports of a sighting in Denair a few minutes later.
There have been no confirmed reports of aggressive behavior or any injuries in relation to the mountain lion activity.
The sightings have raised concerns among residents again, but for the most part, activity in town hasn’t changed. School officials in Turlock have warned parents to take or escort their children to and from schools in the area.
And one customer posted a question on the R.A.M. Farms Facebook page regarding any precautions. R.A.M. operates a pumpkin patch and corn maze on Daubenberger Road, not far from the recent sightings. The maze opened last weekend.
Co-owner Karen Macedo said there are precautions in place, though she noted that none of the family or staff has seen any sign of a mountain lion. “We’ve been out here for months,” she said.
Helpers patrol the maze regularly, equipped with two-way radios. They can immediately contact the desk in case of any emergency, and the staff there in turn can notify authorities. But those emergencies are more likely to be someone lost in the maze or a minor injury from a trip and fall.
“There’s so much activity here,” Macedo said. “There’s a lot of noise and lights.”
The lion sightings provided a light moment at Wednesday night’s forum for mayoral candidates Mike Brem and Gary Soiseth. Toward the end of a gathering that mostly dealt with the city budget, street repairs and other standard topics, an audience member asked what each would do about the rare intruder.
“I can’t take care of the mountain lion,” Brem said. “I can do a lot of things, but I can’t do that.”
Soiseth also is leaving the matter to the experts. “I don’t think that I will be out there hunting the mountain lion anytime soon,” he said. “I’ll be knocking on doors instead.”