A Novato family is grieving over the loss of a pygmy goat that appears to have been the prey of a large wild cat.
"We are devastated by the loss of our baby goat, as is her twin," said Mary Stompe, who lives in the Atherton/Green Point area of the city.
Stompe said she was getting ready to work Thursday morning when she heard the family's dogs barking nonstop. She went out to investigate the commotion and found that Bonnie, a three-month-old Nigerian pygmy dwarf goat, was gone from her pen.
Stompe said she saw paw prints on a gate, leading her to believe a mountain lion or bobcat climbed the six-foot perimeter fence and the four-foot gate to nab Bonnie. Photos of the paw prints were forwarded to the Marin Humane Society, she said.
"It definitely wasn't a coyote because it had to climb the fence," Stompe said. "I thought what we had was plenty adequate (to protect the goats) but clearly it is not. Maybe I need to keep the dogs in there with them to protect them."
Stompe said her son, who is a fish and wildlife conservation biology major at UC Davis, took a look at the emailed photos and said they appeared to belong to a mountain lion.
"It appears to be a mountain lion because there weren't any drag marks," Stompe said.
John Reese, the Marin Humane Society's chief operating officer, said incidents like this are occasional, especially with goats. Not many people keep goats in their backyards in Marin, he said.
A bobcat had been spotted behind the family's fence near a chicken coop about a month ago, she said. Coyotes have been spotted behind the house, which backs up to 28 acres of open space toward Bahia to the north.
Zara McDonald, executive director of the Sausalito-based Felidae Conservation Fund, said that 85 to 90 percent of all lion sightings in California are not mountain lions. It would be a first for Marin if a wild feline attacked a human, at least in documented history, she said.
McDonald said there are “very, very few lions in Marin (maybe 2-3) and they are not interested in people.” The Felidae Conservation Fund founded the Bay Area Puma Project and has several remote cameras in Marin to produce population samplings of lions and bobcats. The lions have large home ranges and prefer West Marin and the northwest side of Mount Tamalpais, she said.
Bobcats are about 30 inches long and weigh 15 to 35 pounds. Mountain lions are usually 52 to 54 inches long and weigh 100 to 175 pounds.
Marin County Parks ranger Rob Ruiz said mountain lions mainly eat deer and can feast on one deer carcass for a week. Bobcats generally eat smaller creatures, such as rabbits, rodents and chickens. A dwarf goat sort of falls into both categories, perpetuating the mystery of Bonnie's disappearance.