Video captures cougars at Avila Bay Athletic Club
Three mountain lions walked through the Avila Bay Athletic Club and Spa property on their way to the Bob Jones Trail in the wee hours of Tuesday morning – and the club filmed them.
“It’s cool because there were two different cameras we were watching from,” said general manager Nancy Terrell.
Surveillance cameras installed by the club captured the pumas as they explored the area.
“We could see them coming in one of the gates and then trotting past the club and heading straight for the Bob Jones Trail,” she said.
Terrell said she thought the mountain lions were likely heading to the creek to get water.
Brandon Swanson, wildlife biologist for the San Luis Obispo County Department of Fish and Wildlife in California, said it appeared the group of cougars contained an adult, likely a female, and two young juveniles – 1 to 1.5 years old. .
“They’re just searching like mountain lions do,” Swanson said.
What makes this sighting special is that it captured a family unit. Cougars are generally solitary hunters, but they also have very strong family bonds. A mother will raise cubs for more than a year and tolerate sharing a hunting territory with their offspring for even longer, Swanson said.
“These three will go their separate ways very soon and they will never interact in the same way again,” Swanson said. “She just raises her little ones until they’re ready to be alone. … These are not packs of cougars. It’s just a small family unit.
Wildlife is a common sight at Avila Bay Athletic Club
Although the average person would be quite surprised to see mountain lions trotting around an athletic club, Swanson said he wasn’t too surprised to learn that the big cats were near Avila Beach, because they stay close to their food source, which is mainly deer.
Terrell said she wasn’t too surprised either, as the Avila Bay Athletic Club and Spa is often home to various wildlife creatures, such as birds, deer, turkeys, raccoons and snakes.
“There’s a lot going on in the club,” she said, noting that it feels quite rustic due to its proximity to the Bob Jones Trail.
This isn’t the first sighting of cougars at the club either. About 10 years ago, a night shift worker came across a large mountain lion drinking in the athletic club’s pool during a drought, Terrell said.
The prevalence of cellphone cameras, ring cameras and other CCTV technology just means more wildlife footage is being captured in areas monitored by humans, Swanson said.
“10 and 15 years ago, a community knew that,” Swanson said. “Now the whole world will know.”
He added that these interactions are also to be expected as humans continue to encroach on the territory of wild creatures.
Swanson said the mountain lion sighting should not be a cause for community concern. Cougars are nocturnal creatures that prefer to eat deer rather than cats or dogs, but they will defend themselves against a perceived threat.
“Staff were concerned that people were overreacting,” Terrell said. “We want everyone to know that everyone can co-exist and these creatures are still around, and we just captured them on the cameras.”
Swanson asks the community to complete a wildlife incident report to help track the activities of wild creatures that roam our backyards. A Wildlife Incident Report may be submitted to apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir/incident/create.