California

He had a close encounter with a mountain lion. On his boat in the middle of a lake

Mountain lion swims across Lake McClure in California

Fresno resident James Horton spotted a mountain lion swimming across Lake McClure when he was at the lake for a fishing tournament on Saturday, June 2, 2018.
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Fresno resident James Horton spotted a mountain lion swimming across Lake McClure when he was at the lake for a fishing tournament on Saturday, June 2, 2018.

James Horton was on Lake McClure early on Saturday morning for a fishing tournament, when he spotted something unusual: a mountain lion going for a swim.

"It was a once in a lifetime experience," he said. "It was really cool to see an animal like that for that length of time."

Horton said he's an avid outdoorsman and has seen mountain lions before on land, but never for long. He said he watched this mountain lion swim for about two to three minutes.

It was about 5:40 in the morning and Horton said they had just started going across the lake in a boat when he saw the mountain lion — though at first, he thought it was a deer.

"It's highly unusual to see something like that," he said.

He said he saw the animal in the river arm of the lake, near Horseshoe Bend and Hunter's Valley Point. It looked like the mountain lion was swimming away from an area that didn't have a lot of trees or brush and toward better hunting ground, he said.

"It's amazing how fast he could swim in that long a distance," Horton said, calling it an "Olympic pace."

"I know I couldn't swim that fast," he said with a laugh. He said that, though the mountain lion didn't seem happy about its human audience, it kept making a beeline for the shore. He estimated the mountain lion swam a distance of about a quarter-mile to a half-mile.

Horton said the animal made it to the shore and ran up the hill.

"I'm sure he's living the good life over there," he said.

While sightings are rare, mountain lions have been spotted swimming in lakes before. In November 2016, a father and son were fishing on Shasta Lake north of Redding when they saw two mountain lions swimming in the Pit River arm of the lake.

​​Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are generally calm, quiet, and elusive. People rarely get more than a brief glimpse of a mountain lion in the wild. But just in case you do encounter a mountain lion, this video will help you be prepared.

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