continued Turner maintains, however, that 99 percent of mountain-lion attacks on people are preventable. In an encounter, a person should face and maintain eye contact with the lion. Carry a long stick and never bend over, turn away, or run when the lion is looking at you, says Turner. "Running immediately makes them think you are prey."
In the wilderness, people are much safer in groups. And lions will stay away from homes if their natural sources of food are not nearby. "But the problem is," according to Turner, "that in the country people often keep domestic animals, like goats, that look and smell to lions like deer." Cat food left outside is also a problem. "No wildlife will ever go away if you leave out food they can get," says Turner.
Most reports of mountain-lion sightings, however, are "misidentifications," in Turner's estimation. "People will see a house cat and swear it was a mountain lion," he says. During his service with California Fish and Game, Turner says he met people who insisted that pictures taken of domestic cats during investigations were of mountain lions instead. He also remembers attacks being faked and false evidence being provided to support them.
"Mountain lions strike fear in people's hearts," says Turner. "We normally think of ourselves as the top of the food chain, and then a lion kills someone. Still, in the last 100 years, only three people in California are known to have been killed by mountain lions."
The last to be killed was Mark Reynolds, last January in Orange County. Several hours after the attack, according to a January 9 report by USA Today, the same lion attacked bicyclist Anne Hjelle, seriously injuring her before she was rescued by friends. Bob Turner was called to the scene of the two attacks. He and other investigators determined that Reynolds was crouching over his own bike to fix its chain when the lion attacked him from behind. Authorities later found the lion and shot it.
When the lion killed Mark Reynolds, "a media nightmare" took place, according to Turner. But even less serious attacks provoke a kind of panic in the public. "When I worked for Fish and Game," says Turner, "we used to get about five mountain-lion sightings in a normal week. But after a publicized attack, we'd get a hundred."