PLACERVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — Mountain lion sightings are not uncommon, even in major cities, but they are usually after sunset.
That wasn’t the case on the El Dorado Trail just outside Placerville in the late afternoon on Monday.
A family of four was walking down the trail with their dogs a few hundred yards from Smith Flat School Road when the dad spotted a mountain lion sitting down among the weeds.
“And as he saw the mountain lion’s head, he then came down the trail behind them and started stalking them,” El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sergeant Eric Palmberg said.
Shouting and making loud noises had no effect.
The hikers called 911, and about seven minutes later, an El Dorado County Sheriff’s sergeant also tried to make noise as other trail users stood by.
“He observed the mountain lion walking back and forth, side to side, on the trail,” Palmberg said.
More noise and discharging his gun to scare it off didn’t do any good — just the opposite.
It approached deputy from 20 yards off. The deputy then shot the mountain lion in the chest, but that wasn’t the end of the ordeal.
“The lion actually increased its speed and actually ran towards him, and he shot three to four additional rounds at the mountain lion stopping it and stopping the threat,” Palmberg said.
Trail regulars like Tom Quayle know that mountain lions hunt in the area, but he hasn’t seen one near the popular path.
“Never,” Quayle said.
But he said he knows there’s plenty of game around, and they are often caught on late-night security camera videos.
Quayle said he’s seen video of big cats on his property a mile away, but he’s still surprised at the daytime encounter.
“That’s scary. I’ve never heard of a cat ever going after multiple people at once,” Quayle said.
But he feels it’s an isolated incident and will continue using the trail.
The sheriff’s office says it regrets the incident but called it unavoidable, and it cautions the users of any trail-users to always be aware of what’s going on around them and to have a cell phone handy in case of an emergency.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing an examination of the mountain lion’s remains to see if there is any explanation of the unusual behavior.