The mauling of a beloved show horse in Grass Valley, California has left one woman “scared to death.” The September 16 attack, which came days after Governor Jerry Brown approved new protections for the state’s cougar population, has left one horse injured and two pet rabbits killed. Owner Chris Beatty told CBS13 that she has been working with horses for more than 50 years and never experienced anything like it.
“If it will attack this size of animal, it will attack anything,” said Beatty.
The horse’s injuries are not life-threatening but the big cat’s claws have ruined any chances for a further career as a show horse. Veterinarians said that the scratches will likely leave permanent scars.
Mountain lion attacks on domestic animals are uncommon. These large predators are rarely seen near human settlements, although the presence of prey animals such as deer can lure cougars. Depredation of domestic animals is usually limited to lambs, calves, and even the occasional household pet. Although an adult mountain lion is more than capable of bringing down a horse, such attacks are rarely reported.
Livestock owners who are regularly troubled by mountain lions can request a depredation permit from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), although these permits are rarely needed or issued. Nuisance mountain lions are generally killed because unlike bears, they cannot be relocated. Cougars keep very strict territories that they are not keen to share. By moving one mountain lion into the territory or another, it causes conflicts between the two animals or the transient animal simply returns to its original home.
Previously, conservation officers were tasked with destroying nuisance mountain lions but the newly passed protection law ties their hands. As a “specially protected species,” DFW officers can only kill a mountain lion if it poses an immediate threat to humans.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture