BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Garrett Ming has traveled along the Kern River Parkway Bike Path for years and come across an assortment of wild animals including roadrunners, rabbits, squirrels and even a coyote.
But he'd never seen anything as large as the big cat stretching on the path about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. He's not sure if it was a mountain lion or an exceptionally large bobcat, but whatever it was, it got his attention.
"I would not want to tangle with it," Ming said.
He stopped about 60 feet away and watched until the cat moved into bushes along the trail east of Manor Street. A pregnant woman came up the path behind him and he told her what he'd seen and suggested she walk back the way she'd come.
The animal had the coloring and head of a mountain lion, Ming said. It had a tan coat, not spotted like a typical bobcat coat.
But Ming said he can't be sure it was a mountain lion because its tail wasn't very long. If it's a bobcat, it's the biggest one he's ever seen.
"That cat could do some serious damage to a human," he said.
Ming's sighting marks the second time within two weeks a large cat has been spotted in the Bakersfield area. An animal was seen and photographed by what the photographer called the "River Run between Stockdale Highway and Allen Road" on April 18.
There were concerns in that instance the animal was a mountain lion, but Kern County wildlife biologist Vicky Monroe examined the photo and said it was most likely a large bobcat. The absence of a long tail is what convinced her.
It's not unusual for bobcats to be spotted in parks or near residential areas in the Bakersfield area. They generally avoid human conduct and activity, and residents who see one should leave it alone.
Mountain lion sightings in residential areas are extremely rare. There have been instances of mountain lions attacking humans in the wild, but again, it's a rare occurrence.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's website says people coming across a mountain lion should face the animal, make noise, try to look bigger by waving their arms, and throw rocks or other objects. If attacked, fight back.
Ming said the animal he saw Tuesday evening didn't seem aggressive at all. And he's grateful for that.