SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The number of mountain lion sightings in the Santa Barbara area have gone up significantly in recent months and experts say it may be because of the two disasters that happened locally.
The Thomas Fire in December of 2017 and the Montecito mudflow in January of 2018 radically changed the habitat for wild animals in our local hills.
It's not the only reason they are moving into new territories according to Paul Collins, a Curator of Vertebrate Zoology with the Museum of Natural History.
"Mountain lions have always come down off and on into that urban interface into the city areas," Collins said.
For animals that survived the fire and mudflow, Collins said they wander into the burned areas as they look for food.
"A good part of their home range has been burned, they have to wander a lot more widely in order to look for food," Collins said.
Home security cameras are capturing images in areas residents may never have expected them.
Sightings were reported off of lower Ontare Road near State Street earlier this week. Recently there's also been reports on Laguna Street in backyard off Los Olivos, Elings Park near Cliff and on Palamino in Mission Canyon.
The big cats are sometimes unphased by the residential or heavily populated areas where they are now wandering. It may also have a solid food source that includes domestic pets.
"They are following the deer down and they can't find enough deer and they are finding other things that are suitable to eat. They are going after feral cats. And that's why feral cat numbers have declined in and around the city areas because mountain lions are picking them off and eating them," said Collins.
And it's likely the same mountain lion is the one being spotted in different areas with close proximity. The range for female mountain lions within a territory is about 40 miles. For males it's about 55 miles.
"In all likelihood it is probably the same mountain lion," said Collins. "Or two young ones that have been kicked out by their adult female (mother)."
With more surveillance cameras in place, residents are seeing the cats and other animals more than ever.
"Capturing images of thing like this coming right up to your front door sniffing around climbing over a fence into your backyard. They had no idea they had mountain lions coming around checking things out," he said.
With that comes a warning.
"You have to be careful, you don't want to leave your pet dogs or cats out at night in the backyard and assume they are going to be safe, because these mountain lions when they are down into these urban interface areas, they will climb fences easily and move between yards pretty readily in search of something that will be good to eat."