Brittany Couch had already decided to keep her animals inside at night after seeing a mountain lion kill a piglet behind her house two weeks ago.
It didn’t help that she saw what might be the same predator do the same thing again early Thursday morning.
Couch lives in the neighborhood of Mission and Chorro streets, not far from downtown San Luis Obispo. Her yard backs up to Old Garden Creek, the drainage for Bishop Peak and much of the Foothill Boulevard area.
She assumed Thursday’s visitor, which police report was in the area about 2:50 a.m., was the same big cat she saw two weeks ago.
“It didn’t ever occur to me to call police,” she said of the earlier episode. “We heard it then because we heard the piglet screaming and we heard it die. The animal then jumped down and walked away with it in its mouth.”
Police responded to the creek area abutting Couch’s yard early Thursday to see a mountain lion in a tree between her yard and the creek itself. They shined spotlights on it, which Couch thought might have confused the animal because it took longer to leave than the first time.
Police are asking people to call the department if they see a mountain lion in San Luis Obispo neighborhoods.
Neighbors reported to police that there had been wild pigs in the creek area, said Lt. Steve Tolley, and the suspicion is that the lion’s meal was some kind of feral piglet.
Dennis Michniuk, a fisheries biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, said he does much of his work in the creeks and has seen evidence of pigs and possibly the pigs themselves. They come down out of the hills for water, but also because the creeks are full of crayfish, a favorite food.
“A lot of them are just wild pigs, domestic pigs that have become feral,” he said. “There may be some boars too in the area.”
While the neighborhood just seems like any urbanized neighborhood with houses and driveways and yards on smaller lots, it is not far from rural areas and abuts the creek, a virtual highway for wildlife.
Couch and nearby neighbor Sharon Ward see deer all the time.
“A mountain lion would eat piglets, cats, dogs, deer,” Michniuk said, “anything that is the easiest to catch and takes the least amount of energy they go for. If it’s been able to find food there before, it would go back.”
Almost three years ago San Luis Obispo police killed a mountain lion on Walnut Street close to the Police Department headquarters.
Neil Havlik, the city’s natural resources manager, said seeing them within the city proper is unusual, but they are seen in the city’s greenbelt at its edges.
“The city’s usual response is to post the area and advise people to be careful,” he said. “We tell them the usual things — don’t turn your back on them, don’t run, try to make yourself look as large as you can be, throw rocks at it, the general things for protecting yourself.”