The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has responded to at least three animal fatalities involving mountain lions in Tuolumne County since April, but has no record of a report made on Monday to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office claiming a mountain lion killed 16 goats over six months in Jamestown.
“Had anybody called us, we would have responded to some degree. But it doesn't mean it doesn't happen, because not everybody calls us,” said Fish & Wildlife public information officer Peter Tira.
Tira said the last sanctioned killing of a mountain lion in Tuolumne County was in April after three goats were killed overnight in Groveland.
The owner was issued a depredation permit, which allows someone to hire a professional trapper or capture a mountain lion themselves, and the lion was killed, Tira said.
After goats were killed on separate properties in Sonora in April, two more depredation permits were issued, but there was no record of a lion being caught in those instances, he said.
“Sonora and Groveland can have a lot more lion activity than Jamestown,” he said.
The most recent report of goat slayings by mountain lions was made to Sheriff’s Office dispatch at 12:39 p.m. on Monday from Park Avenue in Jamestown, a side street to Jacksonville Road north of the Highway 120 bridge over Don Pedro Reservoir.
The report said the most recent killings of the goats occurred last week, but 16 had been killed over six months.
County agencies contacted by The Union Democrat including Animal Control, the Solid Waste Division and the Sheriff’s Office said they had no additional information that could validate the report.
Joe Decosta, supervising officer at Tuolumne County Animal Control, said the area was known as a mountain lion territory because of its proximity to water at Don Pedro Reservoir and wildland canyons often devoid of human activity.
Goats without protection of guard dogs or an enclosure, he added, would likely be considered prey.
“Any type of wild predator, when it has an easy food source, is going to act on the opportunity. Mountain lions are going to eat any kind of mammal they can get their hands on,” he said.
Gretchen Olsen, Tuolumne County Solid Waste manager, said the goats referenced in the report did not belong to a team of Spanish boer goats used by the county for fuel reduction at the former Jamestown Landfill on Campo Seco Road in Jamestown.
Olsen said the approximate nine-goat team is directed by Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office jail staff and inmates to weedeat the property without herbicides. The goats are owned by the county, she said.
Tira said he reached out to local trapper services, and they also said they had not been contacted. For a person to be issued a depredation permit, a Fish & Wildlife official has to visit the area to confirm an attack occurred by a mountain lion, he said.
“This time of year, all wildlife is more active. There are young animals dispersing on their own for the first time,” he said.
The proliferation often causes vehicle accidents in the early morning and late night when mountain lions are most active.
On July 4, the driver of a black 2017 Toyota Camry crashed into a young mountain lion while driving 45 miles per hour in Jamestown, said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Machado. The driver, Margie Nell Peau, 42, was driving north of Wigwam Road about 5:30 a.m. when the mountain lion and vehicle collided on the driver’s side, killing it.
The woman, who was uninjured, received assistance in pulling the mountain lion off the road. The CHP contacted Fish & Wildlife, who then contacted Caltrans to dispose of the animal, Machado said.
Tira said a biologist based in the Madera and Mariposa area was monitoring animal activity and reports in Tuolumne County. He said there is a vacancy in the biologist position overseeing Tuolumne County.