SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Neighbors in the area of Santa Barbara's East Beach are remaining watchful after a mountain lion was spotted multiple times in and around a condo complex this past weekend.
Residents of El Escorial Villas, situated between the beach and the Santa Barbara Zoo, say a newspaper delivery person saw the lion by the complex's pool early Sunday morning.
"We all are keeping our eye out for it," said Laurie Kirby, who lives in El Escorial. "I try to walk the dog away from our condo complex, but I've also heard of sightings in the park here."
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the mountain lion was again spotted at the Santa Barbara Zoo Sunday night.
“One of the zoo security had seen it in the elephant enclosure,” Fish and Wildlife biologist Dustin Pearce said. “We canvassed the entire zoo, but were not able to find it. The zoo property itself… a lot of vegetation, a lot of trees a lot of places for a mountain lion to hide.”
Pearce says the plan is to set up a live trap for the mountain lion Monday. Once captured, the mountain lion would be taken back to the Los Padres National Forest.
Although most mountain lion sightings happen in mountain or foothill areas, Pearce says they can come down closer to the beach.
“It’s not as unusual as you would think,” he said. “Say if Santa Barbara wasn’t here, they would be using those creek corridors and coming down to the beach… You know, often it’ll be a sub-adult, trying to just figure out ‘Where can I set up a home range?’”
Many animal sightings have garnered online attention since the coronavirus pandemic began, with many suggesting fewer cars and people out have made public areas quieter, and therefore more enticing for animals.
“The events themselves are not uncommon, so those would likely occur anyways, and this is kind of the time we would expect that,” he said. “You know, more of us are in our homes. More of us are kind of going outside, especially right now, and just recreating. And I think [people are] seeing things they wouldn’t normally see.”