Bicyclist has close encounter with mountain lion in Foothill Ranch

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
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A bicyclist had a close encounter with a mountain lion in Foothill Ranch.

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. (KABC) -- A man had to make a life-or-death decision after coming across a mountain lion while biking in Foothill Ranch on Monday.

Eric Motch was shaken up after coming face-to-face with the mountain lion in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.

"I thought for sure I was going to fight a mountain lion and there was a chance I wasn't going to survive," Motch said.

The avid mountain biker was riding on the Serrano Cow Trail at dusk when the encounter happened.

"He came out of the tree on the embankment and jumped into the trail probably 10 feet in front of me. I just instinctively picked up my bike," Motch explained.

Motch first spotted the mountain lion as he came down a trail covered by trees.

"I started screaming and yelling for people," Motch said. "I was yelling at it to go away, it was looking at me, staring at me, starting to walk toward me."

After holding his bicycle like a shield and throwing rocks at the mountain lion, Motch said it finally stopped walking forward.

Motch walked backwards until he felt comfortable getting on his bike and riding away.

He found other hikers who said they saw the same mountain lion. Everyone who spotted the mountain lion called park rangers.

"It was not scared of me at all, it kept coming toward me, it wanted me to know that it was there," Motch said.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said rangers searched the area, but did not locate the mountain lion.

Officials said sightings were normal in the area, though the animals typically avoid humans. If you encounter a mountain lion up close, officials said you should try to make yourself look as big as possible.

"Make yourself as large as possible, put your hands up over your head, let the cat see the size that you can be, and they'll most likely leave you alone," Cpt. Larry Kurtz with the Orange County Fire Authority explained.

After 18 years of biking the Serrano Cow Trail, Motch said he would be changing his approach.

"I don't think I'm going to go up there by myself, not for a while. That's for sure," Motch said.