In this area we call them cougars, and we don’t see them too often. But this week, Stanford University was forced to issue a bulletin warning all students that evidence was found of a mountain lion wandering around last weekend in an area of campus near the Stanford Golf Driving Range. A University utilities worker spotted what were apparently fresh tracks on trails not far from nearby graduate student housing.
A detail not often highlighted on campus tours, the foothills and open spaces in and around the Stanford campus are known as mountain lion habitat and sightings do occasionally occur. Although it took several days to make the rounds of campus publications, members of the Stanford community were reminded to be “alert to their surroundings, particularly when walking or jogging on trails in the early morning or early evening hours.”
In addition, students and others were advised that when faced with a mountain lion, they shouldn’t turn around or try to run way. “Appear larger by waving your arms or a jacket or other objects above your head.”
The bulletin also suggested grabbing a stick or rock while continuing to watch the cat and slowly moving away. “Attacks are very rare and most frequently the animal will go away.”
Most of the cats spotted in recent years have been young males who like to roam large territories and don’t like all the disruption of campus construction. San Francisquito Creek, which runs from the hills behind the Stanford West Apartments and on through Palo Alto, has been described as a “wildlife highway” which is traversed by mountain lions in search of prey.
At least one group of undergrads recognizes the significance of the mountain lion to the Stanford community and advocates changing the mascot from The Cardinal to the Mountain Lion. On a Facebook page dedicated to the project, students point out
- Mountain Lions are a local species—they live near campus.
- The only group offended by Mountain Lions is deer, and even at Stanford nobody cares about deer’s rights.
- No other D-1 school has the Mountain Lion as its mascot
Taking a page from the LSU playbook, it was suggested that Stanford could “buy” a mountain lion and build an environment for it at the Maples Pavilion—home of the Stanford basketball teams.
Concerned members of the Stanford community are urged by the Facebook group to contact President Hennessy in support of the petition for a change in mascot. “Until people live in fear of a color [The Cardinal] mauling them, [it’s] time to change.”
In the meantime, Stanford students finding themselves on or near the driving range should most definitely watch their backs.