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Possible mountain lion sighting

Our kitchen window in the Shadow Hills development at the top end of Via Chaparral looks across about 325 yards to the opposite side of San Antonio Canyon in the vicinity of the dam.  On a number of occasions in the last several weeks, usually in the morning between 8:00 and 9:00, I have seen what appears to be a black (or very dark coated) mountain lion on the open and brush covered slope.  It has a very long tail and is quite noticeable with the naked eye.  My wife and my visiting son and I have all seen it with binoculars.  I understand this coloration is not typical in this area although it is seen in parts of Texas.  I'd be interested to know if you are aware of other sightings.  

Thanks so much.

Doug Caldow, Santa Barbara - January 31, 2019

Curator Response

Hi Doug,

This is a very interesting sighting. I've heard previous reports of an animal like this in our area: one close to Sedgwick Reserve and one near Santa Rosa Road (west of Buellton). The assumption about the one near Sedgwick was that it was an animal escaped or released from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch on the closure of the menagerie there. However, aside from Sedgwick’s proximity to that ranch, there is no evidence for that, and the sighting of others so far afield (near Buellton, and now yours) complicates matters.

Mountain Lions (Puma concolor, a.k.a. pumas, a.k.a. cougars) haven’t been known to exhibit melanism (black coloring). Jaguars (Panthera onca) and leopards (Panthera pardus) do, so the critter you saw was most likely a member of one of these species that has escaped or is seriously lost…

Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Paul W. Collins, M.A.