Take extra precautions with mountain lions, coyotes spotted on campus

To: UCSC Community

From: UC Santa Cruz Police Department

As in-person activity at the residential campus continues to ramp up, the UC Santa Cruz Police Department encourages people to be extra aware of their surroundings after receiving reports of a mountain lion and multiple coyotes exploring the campus core. 

Mountain lions and coyotes are native to the Santa Cruz mountains. They generally avoid people unless they are protecting something like food or offspring or they are hunting.

The Police Department would like to share the following tips in the event anyone encounters a mountain lion on campus or on the upper campus trails.

  • Keep children close to you. Observations of captured lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. Keep children within your sight at all times.

  • Do not hike alone. Make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. Go in groups, with adults supervising children. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea: you can use it to ward off a lion.

  • If you see a mountain lion/coyote, stop. Do not run. Back away from it slowly, but only if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate the instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion/coyote and stand upright. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up so they won't panic and run. Although it may seem awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the lion.

  • Do not bend or crouch over, and do all you can to appear larger. A person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. Raise your arms. Open your jacket, if you're wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can grab without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a large voice.

  • Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

  • Fight back, if attacked. Try to stay on your feet if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven off by prey that fights back. Some hikers have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands. Since lions usually try to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers these suggestions to help prevent interactions between humans and coyotes: 

  • Never feed or attempt to tame coyotes. The result may be deadly conflicts with pets or livestock, or serious injuries to small children.

  • Do not leave small children or pets outside unattended.

  • Be aware that coyotes are more active in the spring, when feeding and protecting their young.

  • If followed by a coyote, make loud noises. If this fails, throw rocks in the animal’s direction.

  • If a coyote attacks a person, immediately contact the nearest law enforcement office.

In addition to mountain lions and coyotes, UC Santa Cruz is home to snakes, bats, and more. The department has more information online about living, studying, and working around campus wildlife and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife also has more information online.

To report a possible sighting, call the UC Santa Cruz Police Department immediately at 911 or 831-459-2231. Those on the campus may also use any of the blue light phones found throughout the campus.