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May 5, 2004

Stanford will not seek depredation permit in attacks on horses; Firearms will not be used on university lands, official says

Stanford University officials have ruled out using firearms to track the animal, presumably a mountain lion, that attacked horses on campus-owned land recently.

"I want to make it quite clear, it is our intention not to have firearms on campus," Jeff Wachtel, senior assistant to the university president, said during a press briefing May 4. "We don't want people being deputized to go out and hunt on our property."

Wachtel spoke to reporters at the Dish, a popular walking area east of Highway 280 used by about 1,600 people daily. The two attacks on April 23 and May 1 took place on university land nearby. There were no witnesses to either attack.

University officials are working with representatives from the California Department of Fish and Game and other law enforcement agencies to investigate the attacks.

Around 1 p.m. on April 23, a horse was attacked in a corral at the Felt Ranch near Felt Lake, said Lt. Del Bandy of the Department of Public Safety. The horse received moderate injuries during the attack that Bandy said were probably caused by a mountain lion. The horse was treated by a veterinarian and is expected to recover. The incident took place less than a mile west of Alpine Gate, one of the entrances to the Dish area.

The second attack was reported at about 8:30 p.m. on May 1, when Palo Alto police were notified that a horse had broken out of an open pasture at Old Ramos Ranch off Page Mill Road next to Agilent Technologies. The horse had superficial scratch marks that could have been made by a mountain lion, university officials said. Its most serious injuries, however, came from cuts made by barbed wire.

On the barbed wire, investigators found hair from the horse and from another animal. That horse received stitches and is expected to recover. The second attack occurred about one to one-and-a-half miles southwest of the Stanford Ave. entrance to the Dish.

Despite the attacks, Wachtel said the university will not request a "depredation permit" to track the offending animal or animals. "The entire campus is a game preserve: no hunting or fishing is allowed," he said.

In 1916, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution establishing a preserve on Stanford lands. In 1927, the state legislature passed a law establishing the game preserve on campus, Wachtel said. "This is a place doing research; hunting is not consistent with that," he said. "Most important is the issue of safety."

Since the April 23 attack, uniformed officers have been posted at the four entrances to the Dish to inform visitors about the incidents. Fliers have also been distributed in the area.

Those fliers advise people not to hike alone, to keep children close by and to avoid bending over and crouching. If they spot a mountain lion, they should not run away; try to look larger. If attacked, fight back.



Elaine Ray, News Service (650) 723-7162; elaineray


Jeff Wachtel, Senior Assistant to the President, (650) 725-0589  

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