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Mountain Lions

Nearly half of California is prime mountain lion territory. They are most commonly found in areas with plentiful prey and adequate coverage. These conditions are often found in mountain subdivisions, urban fringes, and open spaces ranging from humid coastal forests to the deserts out east.


Today’s California mountain lion population estimate ranges from 4,000-6,000. Download the brochure.

The mountain lion, also known as a cougar, panther or puma, is tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and tail. Their kittens, or cubs, are covered with blackish-brown spots with dark rings around their tails. The markings fade as they mature.

Mountain lions usually hunt alone, at night. They ambush their prey from behind and kill with a powerful bite at the base of the skull. They do not eat their prey all at one sitting, rather, they cover the carcass with leaves, dirt, or snow and may come back to feed on it over the course of a few days.

Even if you live in mountain lion territory it is possible to never see one due to their secretive and solitary nature. The potential for being injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to other natural hazards. Despite their increasing presence in San Diego, we have been coexisting peacefully for decades.

It's very rare to see a mountain lion, but if you live in an area where they have been sighted, we recommend the following safety tips:   

  • Hike with friends, when possible.
  • If you hike alone, try not to do it at dawn, dusk or night.
  • Keep small children close to you. 
  • Keep dogs on leash.
  • Do not approach or run from a mountain lion.
  • Do not crouch or bend when a mountain lion is in view.
  • If confronted, make sure the mountain lion has an escape route (they tend to avoid confrontation).
  • Report all mountain lion sightings (contact the nearest ranger/station or call 911). 

When you use your best common sense, it is easy to stay safe around mountain lions whether you are on a trail, out camping, or even in your own backyard. 

Thank you for your cooperation as we work to balance recreation with the preservation of San Diego's native wildlife. 

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