Mountain lion seen strutting by elementary school

A mountain lion was seen casually strolling through a residential neighborhood and near an elementary school near the northern border of San Mateo on Friday night, police said today.

Police said they were first called to the area of Bellevue Avenue and Clark Drive in the San Mateo Park neighborhood around 10:15 p.m. Friday on a report of a possible mountain lion sighting.

Witnesses told police they had seen the cat walking west on the 100 block of West Poplar Avenue. They described it as weighing around 100 pounds.

Police received a second report around 11:30 p.m. about a mountain lion walking through the campus gate of Park School at 161 Clark Drive, a short distance from the first reported sighting.

Police searched the area and an officer briefly saw the cat walking north from the school campus.

No further sightings have been reported, and police said in all sightings the mountain lion was calm and not behaving aggressively in any way.

Police notified school officials and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and sent out a community alert.

In a statement today, police said that such sightings have become more frequent due to the drought, which has drawn deer down from the hills into more densely populated neighborhoods.

Police said that mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, but said they would keep the community informed of sightings:

“First and foremost SMPD will do everything possible to ensure the safety of our community during a potential mountain lion sighting. But as we have demonstrated in the past, we will also take every reasonable precaution necessary to protect the animal as well.”

Residents are warned to avoid feeding deer, since it is illegal in California and can attract mountain lions. Avoid jogging and hiking in wooded areas at dawn, dusk and at night, when mountain lions are most active, and keep a close watch on small children in such areas.

Those who encounter a mountain lion should not approach, but should stand their ground, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms. Throw rocks and other objects, and pick up small children, police said.