Possible Puma Sighting Brings on Light

At about 9:30 p.m. on May 22, Joseph Alan Lopez, a 20-year-old biology major and member of the cross country and track team, and his girlfriend left the Library Building by the second floor stairway and started walking toward the upper parking lot. They trekked up the long flight of stairs to the dark pathway that leads to the student parking area, unaware of what was lurking in the shadows.

To get to their car, they needed to go past the construction site in the upper parking lot. This is the only way in or out of that lot, unless they walked all the way around to go down Mountain Street. As of Monday, the pathway, which is a little bigger then the width of a car, and is surrounded by a high chain link fence on one side and brush-covered mountain on the other, was lighted by only one light at the top of the stairs and no other light until the end of the construction site.

When the two students reached the top of the stairs, they were warned by another student, who was standing at the mouth of the opening, that something was moving in the bushes and he thought it was a skunk. Not wanting to get sprayed, Lopez’s girlfriend picked up a rock and threw it into the bushes. After some rustling, the students figured the animal had run away, but that was not the case.

By this point, several students were waiting to cross to the lot, “so we start walking slowly. We pass the area, and out of curiosity I just look back and I see this creature,” said Lopez. “I had no idea what it was; I’ve never seen anything like it before.

“[It came] out to the cement where we were, where we had just been. And I just see the silhouette, because there’s light coming up from the stairs and everything else is dark. It turns around and you see the ears, the head and it was pretty big; it was probably about four feet long. Bigger than any cat I’ve ever seen. It could have been a wild cat, but I just thought it was a mountain lion, that was the first thing [that came to mind].”

Lopez and the others walked quickly away after seeing the cat.
“I’m not a hundred percent sure what it was; I just saw that it was a big cat,” said Lopez. “It didn’t come out to get petted and I’m not going to go and explore either. It was like stooping low like it was prowling.”

However, the chances of it having been a mountain lion are slim.
“We don’t think it was a mountain lion, just because we’ve checked with the Rangers and with animal control,” said Nidal Kobaissi, campus police spokesman. “Mountain lions don’t live in this part of the mountain. They aren’t indigenous to this area.”

Both Bill Taylor, director of business services, who is in charge of overseeing the construction, and Victoria Sincher, a wildlife management specialist with the Pasadena Humane Society, said that it was not a mountain lion.

“But what we think it was was a bobcat, which are in this area though they generally don’t come down to this area,” said Kobaissi. “I’ve worked here for 13 years and never had a report of a bobcat or a mountain lion.

“At some point the Glendale Police Department air ship, the helicopter, kind of patrolled above and used their infrared but they couldn’t see anything.”

The campus police called the Park Rangers and the Pasadena Humane Society, the animal control for this area. They came out to look and both said that it was most likely a bobcat, according to Kobaissi.

However Russ Hauck, a Park Ranger Supervisor with the Glendale park rangers disagrees. “It could have been a mountain lion; it is part of their range.” He did say though that bobcat sigtings are more common.

Sincher said that “90 to 95 percent of the time it is a bobcat and not a mountain lion.”

She did say, though, that no matter what type of cat it was, if anyone comes across a dangerous wild animal, there are a few things they should do.

“Make yourself look bigger than you are, spread your arms, wave them in the air and yell at it, make lots of noise and do not turn around and run away from it,” said Sincher. “It will most likely be more scared of you than
you are of it.”

“Do not turn and run [from it] because you’ll just trigger the chase instinct,” said Hauck.

Lopez said he had one wish after the sighting. “I just wish that there were lights there, cause who knows what can come up and just snatch you from behind? There’s no light in that whole pathway.”
Lopez has now gotten his wish. As of Tuesday lights have been installed on the fence and will be on from sundown to midnight.
There seems to be a question as to whether someone fell down on the job when it comes to lighting that pathway or not.

“When we met with the construction company about making that walkway, we said that lights are supposed to be there,” said Kobaissi. “I don’t know if that ended up being someone at the college’s responsibility or the construction company.”

Kobaissi also added that they are trying to get approval to get the shrubbery cut back as well.

When the construction company was contacted, Bob Hart, the project inspector, said that he wasn’t sure and he would have to go over the minutes of that meeting to find out.

Taylor said that there was never any discussion regarding lighting the path prior to the sighting, or what he refers to as the “incident,” and that he didn’t think there was a problem with lighting. He thought the light at the top of the stairs and the light at the end of the construction area kept the path well lit.
According to Taylor, the school paid for the electrical hookups, while and the construction company ordered the lights.

At least, there are now lights on the fence and the shrubbery will most likely be cut back, but if students don’t feel safe walking by themselves to the upper parking lot, they can always request campus police to escort them.

If students see the large cat or any other dangerous animal, Kobaissi said not to approach it. If they have a cell phone they should call campus police immediately at (818) 240-1000, ext. 4000.