CHICO, Calif. - Chico wildlife officials are warning that the extreme drought California is in this year is expected to create the chance for more mountain lion and bear encounters as the summer moves forward.
"Because of the dry winter, we anticipate seeing more mountain lions and bears coming down into more populated areas," said Chico Animal Services Director Tracy Mohr.
Mohr said as things dry up in the higher elevations it'll drive deer and other prey into the valley to look for food, and predators are likely to follow.
"We're going to see more encounters and more sightings and we want people to be safe," Mohr said.
Occasional yearly sightings aren't uncommon but Mohr expects this year to be different.
For many avid outdoorsman like Lori Cooper, who was out riding her mountain bike in Upper Bidwell Park Tuesday, an uptick in sightings won't scare her away. She said it's all about staying aware of your surrounding and picking when you venture out.
"You just need to be smart about it and know what times of the days they're more active and try to avoid being out there by yourself," Cooper said.
Predators are more active in the dawn and dusk hours, so those are the times of day to avoid being out--especially if you're going it alone.
They're also attracted to small dogs and children, which should be kept a close eye on.
And it's not just undeveloped areas where mountain lions and bears are likely to move be seen, Mohr says they're expected n neighborhoods as well.
"We've got areas of Chico that are really right up against wild areas where we've got coyotes and we've got raccoons and we've got all kinds of wildlife," Mohr said.
Neighborhoods are full of attractions, like small animals and pets. Mohr suggests keeping them inside to ensure their safety.
As for bears, they're most tempted by human food and garbage, so Mohr suggests only taking trash out the night before it's collected.
She said it's fortunate that most predators are frightened by humans, but the risk remains so Chico Animal Services is putting out the warning because they "just want every body to be safe."