Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail title=
Mountain lion sitting on the trail, looking out over Lake Cachuma
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By an edhat reader

I was hiking on the Sweetwater trail yesterday when I encountered a lazy mountain lion, lolling in the shade and looking out over Lake Cachuma. It was 103, after all, and I was doing a heat acclimation hike in preparation for an upcoming visit to the Grand Canyon. I spotted her/him/it before she saw me. Once she finally noticed me she just sat and watched until I said something. After that, she took off down the trail and vanished, I thought, until a few minutes later when I saw her again. At that point, I realized I needed to get out of there and I turned back toward the campground to report it to the ranger and hitch a ride back to my car parked at Bradbury Dam.

Unfortunately, the ranger was less than helpful and, after looking at my photo, dismissed my sighting as a bobcat. He added that it was to be expected to encounter these animals "it is their native habitat" and invited me to head back down the trail to my car because he was "not a taxi service." Instead of making myself lion bate, I opted to face a walk along the 154 highway about a mile back to Bradbury Dam. I'm not afraid of much but mountain lions are nothing to mess with.

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Lucky 777 Aug 22, 2020 02:21 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Every year the bucking horse herd that roams wild on the Southern side of Lake Cachuma loses a few colts and even sometimes full grown horses to pumas. That's nature. Hike those fields and you'll find the remnant bones. Think you're an easier target than a 1,000 pound horse? I bet the cat thinks so too.

Hammonds Hound Aug 22, 2020 10:51 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

We used to keep horses on the old Mcmenemy
property next to San Ysidro Ranch. One day while walking through the trails to find the horses, a bobcat came sauntering down the trail at me and just walked right on by.
I’ll never forget that moment, as it was all so casual and unexpected!

m-cubed Aug 22, 2020 09:16 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

"I spotted her/him/it before she saw me."
It probably heard and smelled you 3 minutes earlier.

mtndriver Aug 22, 2020 08:21 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Pretty hard to tell from the photo. Is that its tail on the ground? It’s so dark, color is more like a bobcat. But the photo is not going to convince anyone either way. I’m going with wombat, because, why not? I also live in the foothills, and we have had mountain lions in our neighborhood, a few sightings every couple years. Exciting and also a little bit scary!

420722 Aug 21, 2020 06:48 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

I’ve seen two on this trail before over the years. Also, there IS a decent sized sign warning of Mountain Lions when entering from the Cachuma side along with some tips. Not sure about the other end where OP entered from. I’m kind of perplexed as to why the ranger was so unhelpful though. Nervousness can sometimes comes off as rudeness. Maybe you just got one of the few unhappy rangers because usually they’re pretty nice people willing to help and answer questions.

mp805 Aug 21, 2020 05:13 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Correct me if I'm wrong.....but aren't you supposed to hike with friends who are slower than you?

Coolio Aug 21, 2020 04:49 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

I guess it depends how hungry the mountain lion is at the moment you encounter it. According to State Fish and Wildlife ( there's been 3 non-fatal attacks this year so far in CA.

OpossumBoy Aug 21, 2020 03:44 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

It’s no big deal. I live in the foothills above S.B. alongside the Jesusita Trail, and have seen both mountain lion and black bear at my house. The first time was when I rode up to the house on my dirt bike. The mountain lion stood behind a tree about 20 ft away checking me out. I just stood next to the bike and stared back. It was beautiful. After a few minutes, I just went on in. Then a few months ago I heard all this rustling noise on my porch, opened the door and was face to face with a black bear going through my trash about 6 feet away. It took my making a heck of a lot of noise to drive it off.

Know that these critters are here. A while back I heard about a woman who had to grab her small dog back from the jaws of a coyote, so for your dog’s safety, keep it on a leash as you hike the trails. And then there are the dang rattlesnakes right now. Watch for them: Being cold blooded, they tend to hang out right on the border between sun and shade, regulating their body temp. If you see a rattlesnake, please don’t kill it. They help keep the rodents in check.

Just wait till you hear the blood-curdling scream of a mountain lion in the evening. LOL

EastBeach Aug 21, 2020 01:49 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

OP - Didn't know about that trail, will have to try it. Smart to acclimate for your GC trip. I've backpacked a lot in GC during the summer. Hottest was 115F at Phantom so be prepared if you're headed down to the bottom.

Minibeast Aug 21, 2020 03:29 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

MP805. Thanks for that great laugh. I thought much the same when this photo came up. Really? Add to that "making myself lion bate" and I'm having way too much fun reading this.

Ahchooo Aug 21, 2020 01:15 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Perhaps there should be a blanket warning for the Cachuma area. If it was, in fact, a mountain lion, how much danger do they pose to adult hikers? Do they stay away if you make noise and make yourself look large (that’s what we were taught when I was a kid)? The ranger was right, it is mountain lion habitat. He might have been kinder about it. But let everyone now be aware: there are mountain lions up there, even on developed paths. Kinda like sharks in the ocean. Hard to keep tabs on them at all times.

a-1598115233 Aug 22, 2020 09:53 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

They do post warnings to campers when there is a valid sighting at the Lake of a lion. Doesn't happen often. Google mountain lion at Cachuma Lake 2013 and you'll see a photo taken by a ranger near the dam.

notyouagain Aug 22, 2020 08:58 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

most bobcats chew their tails off because they can't find much to eat. apparently this one hasn't had that problem.

a-1598041680 Aug 21, 2020 01:28 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

I don't know... looks like a teddy bear to me. A better image would help for a better critter ID.

SoapBox Aug 21, 2020 10:56 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Puzzling response from the ranger considering that the US Forest Service website recommends that "If at any time you spot a mountain lion, report the sighting or encounter to your local forest ranger station or visitor center as soon as possible." Cachuma Recreation Area is a County park but it still lies adjacent to Los Padres National Forest. Imaging their liability if it injured someone while they knew it was there and did nothing to warn hikers and campers. I imagine my photo would be even fuzzier due to shaking hands as I backed my way out of there.

porkrind Aug 21, 2020 09:14 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Liability? It's a park. There are _supposed_ to be wild animals there. I’d be overjoyed to spot a mountain lion in the wild. They’re not easy to spot even though they’re around. Rest assured though, for every one you see, many of them have seen you and stayed in cover.

a-1598041981 Aug 21, 2020 01:33 PM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Perhaps the ranger was reacting to your demands that something be done about this sighting of yours including your demand for a ride back to civilization. I also agree that most folks couldn't reliably tell a bobcat from a lion unless they were side by side long enough to get the cellphone out for a few snaps.

LCP112233 Aug 21, 2020 10:54 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Nice! I hiked that one a couple weeks ago. If I saw a lion, I wouldn't tell the ranger. I have seen them before and never thought to tell any authorities. It's totally normal, it's their home.

a-1598031851 Aug 21, 2020 10:44 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

We camp at Cachuma often, already three times this year. We have a dog and she alerts us to predators when hiking in the area. We have seen bobcats many times but not lions. It looks like one to me too, the way it is sitting, the coloring and the large ears.

Z Aug 21, 2020 10:22 AM
Mountain Lion on Sweetwater Trail

Lousy image. Lousy attitude. Why would you need to inform a campground ranger that you had seen a big cat? You got a treat, keep it to yourself.

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