Family of mountain lions caught on video visiting a SLO County health club

·3 min read

Three mountain lions cruised through the Avila Bay Athletic Club and Spa property on their way toward the Bob Jones Trail in the wee hours Tuesday morning — and the club caught them on video.

“It’s cool because there was two different cameras we were looking from,” said general manager Nancy Terrell.

The surveillance cameras set up by the club captured the mountain lions as they explored the area.

“We could see them come into one of the gates and then trot in front of the club and head right to the Bob Jones Trail,” she said.

Terrell said that she thinks the mountain lions were likely heading for the creek to get some water.

Brandon Swanson, wildlife biologist for San Luis Obispo County California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it appeared that the group of mountain lions contained one adult, likely female, and two juvenile cubs — between 1 to 1-and-a-half years old.

“They’re just kind of searching around like mountain lions do,” Swanson said.

What makes this sighting special is it captured a family unit. Mountain lions are typically solitary hunters, but they also have very strong family bonds. A mother will raise cubs for well over a year and will tolerate sharing hunting territory with their offspring for even longer, Swanson said.

“Those three will separate pretty soon and they won’t ever interact the same way again,” Swanson said. “She’s just raising her cubs until they’re good to be on their own. ... Tt’s not packs of mountain lions. It’s just a small family unit.”

Two mountain lions wander through the Avila Bay Athletic Club and Spa parking lot on Tuesday, Jan. 18. They were two of three — likely a mother and her two juvenile cubs — caught on the club’s surveillance cameras.
Two mountain lions wander through the Avila Bay Athletic Club and Spa parking lot on Tuesday, Jan. 18. They were two of three — likely a mother and her two juvenile cubs — caught on the club’s surveillance cameras.

Wildlife a common sight at Avila Bay Athletic Club

Although the average person would be fairly surprised to see mountain lions trotting through an athletic club, Swanson said he wasn’t too surprised to learn the big cats were near Avila Beach because they stay close to their food source, which is primarily deer.

Terrell said that she wasn’t too surprised either, because the Avila Bay Athletic Club and Spa is often host to various wild creatures, such as birds, deer, turkeys, raccoons and snakes.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the club,” she said, noting that it feels pretty rustic due to its proximity to the Bob Jones Trail.

This also isn’t the first mountain lion sighting at the club. About 10 years ago, a night worker stumbled upon a large mountain lion drinking out of the athletic club’s pool during the drought, Terrell said.

The prevalence of cell phone cameras, Ring cameras and other video surveillance technology just means more wildlife footage is captured in areas that humans monitor, Swanson said.

“Back 10 and 15 years ago, a community would know about it,” Swanson said. “Now the whole world will know about it.”

He said these interactions are also to be expected as humans continue to encroach on the territory of wild creatures.

Swanson said the mountain lion sighting should not be a cause of concern for the community. Mountain lions are nocturnal creatures that prefer to eat deer not cats or dogs, but they will defend themselves against a perceived threat.

“There was concern by the staff that people might overreact,” Terrell said. “We want everyone to know that everyone can coexist and those creatures are always here, and we just happened to catch them on the cameras.”

Swanson asks that the community fill out a wildlife incident report to help him keep track of the activities of the wild creatures roaming through our backyards. A wildlife incident report can be submitted at apps.wildlife.ca.gov/wir/incident/create.