Evidence of a mountain lion has reportedly been seen in downtown Salado.
A mountain lion apparently killed a white tail deer near the playground area of First Baptist Church and dragged it to a brushy area nearby on Feb. 15.
Evidence of the kill included blood stains on the pavement and a clear dragging path to its cache area, according to Richard Pereira, who discovered the evidence of the kill.
“All that was remaining in the parking lot was the stomach and entrails and some tufts of hair,” Pereira said. “In the empty lot, there were body bones that the buzzards had already gotten to and the severed head with large bite marks between the eyes and jaw.”
Pereira is the facilities supervisor at First Baptist Church. He said that the kill most likely occurred between 8:30 p.m. Feb. 15, and 7 a.m. Feb. 16 when he returned to work at the Baptist Church.
“I’ve been an avid outdoorsman all my life,” he said. “From what was left behind, this was evidence of a mountain lion’s kill.”
Pereira said he wondered why a mountain lion would come so close to town. “There are some big ranches west of here,” he added.
Mountain lions, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife, are solitary animals and are rarely actually seen by people. However, they do leave evidence behind of their presence in an area, usually in the form of scat, scrapes and kills.
“Drag marks are a good indication of a lion kill,” writes Billy Pat McKinney in the TPWD publication A Field Guide to Mountain Lions. “The drag mark is usually wide and clear if the prey is large, and it is fairly straight from the kill site to the cache area. Lions cache their kills in areas of heavy cover. They often cover their kill with grass, leaves, dirt or other debris, but they do not bury their kill.”
Mountain lions have been captured on game cameras on larger properties, but this is the closest that a lion has reportedly come to the local population.
Local residents should be careful when letting their pets or leaving their animals out at night.
“Mountain lions rarely interact with humans; however, with the ever-growing human population, the frequency of encounters between lions and humans in Texas is likely to increase,” McKinney states in the publication. “Many ranchette-type subdivisions and urban fringe areas are expanding into lion habitat. Deer feeding and reduced hunting activity will increase deer populations in these areas, attracting lions.”
“As more people use hiking trails, the potential for lion and human confrontation is also increased,” McKinney stated. “However, the general public should not be alarmed into thinking that mountain lions are a threat to their well being. As stated previously, lion-human interactions are rare.”
Some indications that may warn of lion-human interactions include a large number of lion sightings in an area frequented by humans, the disappearance of pet cats and dogs from yards and the indication of lions which appear to have lost their normal fear of humans, according to McKinney. In the case of lions that appear to have lost their fear of humans, the lion is typically a juvenile male or escaped pet.
If lions are known to be in the area, TPWD suggests these measures to help prevent the likelihood of human interaction.
1. Install outdoor lighting in areas where you walk after dark so you can see a lion, if present.
2. Landscape or remove any vegetation a lion could hide in around children’s play areas. Make it difficult for a lion to approach unseen.
3. Do not feed wildlife. Do not plant palatable shrubs since this will also attract deer. Remember, predators follow prey.
4. Keep pets under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. If you leave pets outside, confine them to kennels with tops. Store all garbage securely.
5. Children should be closely supervised while playing outside if lions have been seen in the area.
If you should encounter a mountain lion, here are things you could do to minimize the chance of an attack:
1. If you are in a park or other area where lions are known to be present, hike with others, not alone. If small children are present, keep them close to you and within sight at all times. Carry a sturdy walking stick, it can be used to ward off a lion.
2. Don’t approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or has cubs. Leave the lion an avenue of escape.
3. Stay calm, when you encounter a lion. Talk calmly and move slowly.
4. Stop, back away slowly only if you can do so safely. Do not run away or turn your back.
5. Do all you can to appear bigger by raising your arms. Pick up children to prevent them from running and possibly triggering an attack.
6. If the lion is aggressive, throw rocks, sticks or whatever you can get your hands on easily. Wave your arms, brandish a stick, speak firmly and loudly. Do not bend over or turn your back.
7. If a lion attacks you, fight back. Lions can be driven off by fighting back with whatever you can get your hands on. Remain standing. If the lion knocks you down, try to get back on your feet.