Wildlife

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

As visitors return to San Mateo County Parks, now is a good time to remember that we are the guests of many creatures that call the parks their home. Some of these creatures warrant some extra caution if encountered.

Mountain Lions

Mountain lions hunt alone at night and typically avoid human interaction. When visiting the park, keep in mind the following safety tips:

  • Don’t hike during early morning or dusk hours – the times of day that wildlife hunt
  • Hike and jog with another person or in groups
  • Be aware of your surroundings and don’t use ear buds when hiking alone

If you do encounter a mountain lion:

  • Make yourself look bigger by raising your arms over your head and shouting
  • Maintain eye contact with the cat, don’t crouch down
  • Throw sticks, a backpack and anything you can reach without bending down
  • Pick up small children and keep them calm
  • Report any mountain lion sightings to park rangers in person or by phone as soon as possible
  • If attacked, fight back – try to remain upright

Coyotes

Coyotes play an integral role in our parks by regulating the rodent population. They avoid people whenever possible and aggressive behavior towards humans is unusual. It's most often the result of habituation due to feeding by humans. If you encounter a coyote remember the following:

  • Never feed or attempt to tame a coyote.
  • Avoid direct eye contact.
  • Don't turn your back or run from the coyote.
  • Attempt to leave the area calmly.
  • If followed by a coyote, make loud noises and make yourself look big. If this fails, throw rocks.
  • Always keep yourself between the coyote and small children or pets.
  • If attacked, fight back.

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are common throughout the park system and are important members of the natural community who help to keep the rodent population under control. They're venomous snakes with movable front fangs and typically have a rattle at the end of their tail. The rattle sound is a warning by the snake which it uses to make its presence known. They will not attack, but if disturbed or cornered, they will defend themselves. Rattlesnakes are found around rocks and are usually out when the weather is warm. If you encounter a rattle snake:

  • Do not pick up the snake.
  • Do not disturb or corner the snake.
  • Move away and the snake will flee most of the time.

Poison Oak

Poison Oak is also common throughout the park system. It can grow as a shrub or as a vine which scales trees. It is recognizable by a grouping of three leaves which range in color from green, to yellow, to red. When Poison Oak is contacted its oil may cause an irritating rash. Pets running loose around poison oak may get the oil on their fur and later pass it on to their owners. If you come into contact with poison oak:

  • Wash your skin with soap and warm water as soon as possible (The oil typically penetrates the skin within ten minutes). Scrub under fingernails with a brush to avoid spreading oil to other parts of the body.
  • Reactions range from very mild to very severe, sometimes requiring emergency care at the hospital.
  • If rash develops, calamine lotion may be used on the skin to decrease itching. This, as well as other ointments and creams, can be found at your local drug store. Rashes usually last for a week or two.
  • Call your physician if the rash/itching is severe or does not stop.

Learn more about being safe in San Mateo County Parks. Be Aware