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Mountain lion could be hunting in the county
Many local residents have reported seeing a mountain lion like this one featured in a stock photo. Authorities say to be careful around lions if encountered and to create a larger profile to scare them off. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The reports from some rural residents that a mountain lion has been prowling around Stanislaus County gained some substantiation with the death of a horse in the Hilmar area.

The suspected mountain lion attack was discovered on Aug. 23 when a 600-pound yearling was found dead in a pasture at a ranch off of Golf Link Road in Hilmar.

"He was killed by a bite to the neck that went all the way through to his spinal cord," said Jessica Wright, the caretaker at the ranch. "It also had deep scratch marks from claws."

Wright took a few pictures of the horse's wounds and a state trapper with the California Department of Fish and Game agreed the attack was likely that of a mountain lion.

The horse was found in a pasture that is next to the Merced River and about 50 yards from any structure, Wright said.

"He was kind of an independent guy and didn't stay with the herd," Wright said of the horse.

Wright said state trappers did find and shoot some coyotes in the area but that it was "pretty improbable that coyotes could have taken down the horse and caused those injuries."

On Monday an employee with the Turlock Irrigation District reported a sighting of a mountain lion near a canal bank on West Whitmore Avenue and Poland Road southwest of Modesto. Another recent sighting was reported near Dryden Golf Course on Dry Creek in Modesto.