Mountain lion behind chaos in Irvine last month is possibly spotted in Mission Viejo

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (KABC) -- A mountain lion spotted Tuesday night in a residential Orange County neighborhood could be Irvine's very own M317.

M317 is the 100-plus-pound cougar seen in surveillance video causing chaos in an Irvine shopping center in late March -- even running inside a building at one point.

Nearly a month later, Diana Tarzi thought it was just another neighborhood pet making notifications pop up on her phone.

"So I said, probably another cat, and this one was a big cat," Tarzi said, laughing.

Tarzi reported the cougar sighting to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Kyle Werner, a Mission Viejo Animal Services supervisor, confirmed Wednesday that the "big cat" Tarzi's security camera recorded was either Irvine's superstar or M316, another mountain lion collared within the last two months.

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Both M317 and M316 were under tracking for a study out of UC Davis, according to Werner.

Werner said the animal was likely traveling through a flood control channel below Tarzi's home on Del Rey, connecting the beach to Saddleback Mountain.

"It isn't uncommon for them to pass through semi-residential areas using those green belts. It's usually in the evening, early morning hours, that they're spotted," Werner said.

Werner said the wildlife area in Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains is small and isolated because it's surrounded by freeways which mountain lions don't like to cross. That means the animals are pretty highly concentrated in the region.

On top of this, a population in the Santa Ana Mountains is transitioning into adulthood.

"Lions that are getting to the age where they're dispersing from their mothers, that are moving out into different areas looking for their own territory," Werner said.

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"I guess I'm not gonna be walking outside at all anymore. I'll go more to gym than walking. I have to be careful with the dog when we take him out for a walk or doing their business," Tarzi said.

Werner recommends people stand their ground, act big and threatening, make loud noises and throw something like a rock if they encounter a mountain lion. It is not recommended people run because cougars may give chase.

People are asked to report sightings of the animals to Mission Viejo Animal Services.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's website on Wednesday, mountain lions were under consideration to be listed as threatened along California's southern and central coast regions. During a 12-month status review by the CDFW, the animals are protected.
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