Killer lions on the prowl in Ute Pass

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Local Law Officers Want Problem Cougars Removed

 

 

by Rick Langenberg:

 

 

 

Residents and animal owners in the Ute Pass are urged to remain vigilant and watch over their pets and kids, in the wake of a series of deadly mountain lion attacks in the last few weeks.

Officials from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife have attributed at least three recent canine fatalities or reports of missing dogs to recent mountain lion assaults. Official signs, relaying the message that local residents live in lion country, are being distributed to communities in the Ute Pass. “We are seeing more activity in the Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park and Cascade area,” said Michael Seraphin, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He said their agency plans to monitor mountain lion activity in the Ute Pass, but they haven’t set any traps or made attempts to capture problem cougars. He estimates that several hundred mountain lions roam throughout the region, but it’s unusual for a large number of them to remain inside one locale for very long. “They are looking for food,” said Seraphin.

In addition, many recent signs have been distributed throughout local neighborhoods and along the Ute Pass trail under the heading, “Mountain Lion attacks in our Neighborhood.” These alerts have gotten the attention of many canine owners, who regularly use the trails in Green Mountain Falls and Chipita Park. They have also been posted at The Pantry restaurant.

These signs allege that two mountain lions entered a fenced yard of a Cascade family during the daylight hours of April 21 and attacked a large 90 pound dog “and took it to a nearby place.” At this same residence, a poodle was reported missing and most likely encountered the same fate. Earlier postings in late March inquired about the whereabouts of the poodle. “No dogs remain with this family, which means that the lions will try to strike another family’s dogs soon. Please be ever vigilant and watchful over your children, pets and yourselves when outside in our neighborhood, keeping your pets of all sizes inside at night,” stated the recent alert.

Wildlife authorities now believe mountain lions killed both animals at the Ute Pass residence and have devoured at least another dog. According to Seraphin, tracks exhibited at the property were consistent with a mountain lion attack. In addition, Green Mountain Falls Police Chief Tim Bradley reported a mountain lion sighting near a school bus stop off Chipita Park Road on April 29 and confirmed an earlier lion-related killing off Mountain Road. “We are definitely cautioning people to give mountain lions a lot of room,” said Bradley, who plans to address the GMF Board of Trustees this evening (May 7) regarding the town’s cougar situation.

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Bradley wants to talk with wildlife officials and pursue the possibility of having the problem lions removed from the area. “We want to see if we can figure out what is up with these lions and possibly relocate them,” said the police chief. But he cautioned that these removal options would have to be explored with the Division of Parks and Wildlife.

It is not unusual for Ute Pass residents to deal with a mountain lion menace. The Ute Pass and parts of Teller County are located inside the habitat of mountain lions that often prowl close to homes in search of food. “More people in the area have moved into their habitat,” admitted Seraphin. At the same time, mountain lions are extremely elusive wild animals that are rarely spotted.

Several years ago, the town of Green Mountain Falls encountered an unusual number of sightings of mountain lions and bobcats, and local school kids were often escorted to school, via the marshal’s office. That situation may have been escalated by a number of goats that resided in Crystola, according to Seraphin. But at the time, some GMF residents were alarmed over the cougar scare and were even prepared to hunt and shoot the delinquent mountain lions.

That earlier mountain lion fear was triggered when two lions jumped a fence and attacked and killed a 15-pound dog in Green Mountain Falls in broad daylight right in front of the property owners, a block away from the main street. A mother lion apparently was trying to train her cub on the nuances of hunting. As a result, a Cavashon Mix was killed in less than a minute. A food trap was set up, but the killer lions were never captured. This attack marked the first time in recent memory that a canine was devoured by lions locally inside such a controlled environment.

But these types of attacks are no longer that unusual with the large number of cougars that frequent the area.

Using common sense in preparing for cougar attacks

Seraphin advises local residents to use good common sense, such as not leaving their pets in a yard for an extended period, especially at night, or making sure that outdoor kennels have secure roofs. And it’s a definite no-no to let dogs or pets run loose during this time. Also, he advises concerned residents to bang pans and pots, use a whistle or make clapping noise, prior to letting their dogs out for an extended period, or if they spot a mountain lion at their property. Using rubber bullet buck shots to scare off lions is also suggested as an extra precaution, according to wildlife officials. But if a mountain lion does invade your property, using deadly force is cited as a last resource.

Although mountain lions are a menace for pet owners, they are typically scared of humans. “Mountain lions associate four-legged critters with food, but they associate people with danger,” said Seraphin.

Mountain lions typically feast on deer and elk, but they sometimes prey on dogs and cats and possess an amazing amount of strength for their size. For the most part, residents who walk their animals on a leash won’t experience any problems. But this isn’t necessarily a sure safety measure. A pet owner in the Broadmoor area had a small Dodson snagged from him in the last year while walking his canine in a quiet neighborhood, when a fast-moving cougar grabbed the leash. That particular lion was later captured and destroyed. However, Seraphin described that incident as extremely unusual.

But when mountain lions spend a large amount of time near a residential area, their behavior can become unusual. In the last several decades, several local people have reported mountain lion wounds from isolated incidents, but none have died from any attacks.

Mountain lion encounters are extremely rare, with only about 50 recorded human/mountain lion encounters in the last 50 years throughout the country, according to national statistics. “You mainly don’t want to make yourself a target of opportunity,” warned former GMF Marshal Randy Ford, who was strongly involved in dealing with the town’s previous mountain lion menace.

The state Division of Parks and Wildlife, the GMF Marshal’s Office and Mountain Lion Foundation have made these safety recommendations in the past regarding cougars: do not let your pets run loose on trails in Green Mountain Falls and other areas–roaming pets are easy prey for mountain lions; remove vegetation that provides cover for cougars and that attracts wildlife; confine and secure any livestock in pens, sheds and barns; when playing with your pets in your yard, make a lot of noise and even bang several pots together, as this will help thwart any potential cougar attacks; supervise children, especially between dusk and dawn, and educate them about mountain lions and other wildlife they may encounter.

In addition, don’t hike in wild areas alone; never run past or from a cougar, as this may trigger their instinct to chase; never bend down or crouch down–this will make humans look like four-legged prey to some mountain lions and also makes the neck and back of the head vulnerable; during an encounter with a mountain lion, make yourself look larger by opening your jacket, raising your arms and throwing branches and stones without turning away; and try to remain standing to protect your head and neck, if attacked, but fight back with whatever is at hand.

For more information, call 227-5200.