Keeping Pets Safe from Predators

Mountain lion (photo courtesy of UDWR)

Question: I have two small dogs and two cats and we are thinking about moving to the Sierra foothills. I understand we need to protect our pets from coyotes and mountain lions. I have researched your website (Keep Me Wild) and the Internet and received many suggestions, but I have some questions for which I have not found answers. Assuming I follow all suggestions (leave no food/water out at night, cut down brush, provide no shelter, etc.):

  1. Are there any fences or other types of barriers that will protect my unattended pets completely at any hour, especially dawn, dusk and night?
  2. If not, will the pets be safe unattended in a well-fenced yard during the day?
  3. Can cats ever go outside, if the area is fenced in?

Thanks for any help. (Catherine)

Answer: For your dogs to be absolutely safe outside unattended at any time of day or night, you should consider building a kennel. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Associate Wildlife Biologist Jeff Cann, the kennel should have a cement floor to prevent predators from digging in and stout wrought iron or chain link fence sides and top to prevent a lion from jumping or climbing into the pen. Other types of fences work pretty well but have problems when built next to a hill or if they traverse a creek drainage, etc.

If you build a perimeter fence around your yard, it should be at least eight feet tall (wire or steel) and at the top of that have an outlying section that is two to three feet long, attached at a 45 degree angle to the top, similar to security fences. This makes it harder (but not impossible) for lions to enter because they have to move vertically and horizontally at the same time (which they can do). The fence should be well-anchored so animals cannot pry it up or dig under it. Wood fences are easy for a lion to climb, so that’s why we recommended the kennel first. It only takes an overhanging tree limb or a tree to fall on a weak perimeter fence, and your pets are no longer secure.

Well-constructed kennel kits are usually available at places like Costco, and many feed stores carry panels that connect together to make any size kennel you want.

Cats going outside would be safest midday, but it’s not a sure thing. They too need a stout enclosure to be absolutely safe from bobcats, coyotes and lions.

The only sure-fire thing to be sure your pets remain safe is to leave all pets indoors, all the time. However, lions have even been known to break through screened porches to get small dogs.

In addition to trying to protect your pets from predators, keep in mind that even your common house cat can turn predator toward the wild birds in your area and significantly impact songbird (passerine) bird populations. Scientists from the Audubon Society estimate that free-roaming cats (owned, stray and feral) kill hundreds of millions of birds and possibly more than a billion small mammals in the U.S.each year. To lessen these impacts and ensure your cats stay safe, it’s best to keep them indoors all of the time.

Glow stick bobbers
Is it legal to use a two-inch sealed chemical glow stick on a bobber while fishing catfish at night? It wouldn’t be underwater or near the hook. It would be used as a strike indicator only. (Paul)

Answer: Yes, using a glow stick as a strike indicator would be legal.

Pending citation?
Question: I received a ticket on May 11 of this year but have not received any notes about my fine. Should I just go to the court at the address listed on the ticket? (Ginsue Y.)

Answer: Yes, you must contact the court on or prior to the date shown on your copy of the citation. According to DFG Lt. Todd Tognazzini, many courts in California send out formal courtesy notices with further instructions about how to handle your ticket, but some do not. This notice often provides instructions about your options which may include paying a fine through the mail or appearing before the court. Many courts also have an online method for handling citations.  When you were cited, you were provided a specific date on which to appear in court. If you have not heard from the court and an online search or call to the court does not help, it is critical to appear on the date and time indicated on your citation. Failure to do so may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

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