estled against the Box Springs Mountains, with the 40-acre Botanic Gardens forming most of its southern border, the UC Riverside campus rubs shoulders with valuable habitat for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. A persistent rumor holds that mountain lions are among the big cats that roam the more rugged parts of campus and nearby mountains. Janine Almanzor, curator of the Botanic Gardens, said staff have not sighted a mountain lion, but there have been anecdotal reports.
“A few years ago, a visitor said he saw one jump over the west fence of the gardens into the arroyo area between the Botanic Gardens and the campus. He said it was about 160 pounds and had a long tail. That sounds like a mountain lion, but the staff never saw it, and he didn’t take a picture,” she said.
Jodie Holt, director of the Botanic Gardens, said the facility does have resident bobcats, some of which have had kittens.
“One bobcat that has been puzzled over is tall and lanky, which could have led to speculations about mountain lions.” she said.
Adult mountain lions, also called cougars or pumas, are about 2-3 feet high at the shoulder - and weigh between 65-220 pounds, depending on sex, with close-cropped, smooth, tawny coats and a long, cylindrical tail. Females and males both vaguely resemble a slender African lioness and prefer to hunt deer. Bobcats fall somewhere between a very large house cat and a medium-sized dog —12-24 inches tall and 9-40 pounds. They sport shaggy, tan coats with spots that might not be noticeable from a distance, and a short, stubby tail about 4-6 inches long.
Botanic Gardens staff got a close-up look at some new bobcat kittens in May.