In a rare incident that has generated much speculation and concern in southern Teller, a veteran member of the Cripple Creek donkey herd was killed during a recent mountain lion attack inside their winter home turf.
The donkey, Scout, was discovered by Clinton Cline, vice-president of the Two Mile High Club, which oversees the donkey herd, in an isolated section of the 15-acre pasture area near the public works facility, outside of town. The attack prompted an investigation by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who advised the club on taking several steps to assure the safety of the remaining members of the herd, now totaling 13 donkeys.
The club has already installed a motion-activated special spotlight to scare off potential predators. Club members are also doing nightly visits of the pasture area to check on their welfare.
“It is very said. This is very unusual,” said Tom LItherland, president-elect of the Two Mile Club, who also serves as a member of the city council.
According to Litherland, the region has experienced a high amount of coyotes and has received reports of several mountain lions in the area, such as a mother and two cubs.
Club members have concluded that the latest attack was the result of a mountain lion and not a coyote.
“This was a lucky kill,” said Cline. He (the mountain lion attacker) was just in the right place at the right time.”
According to Cline, incidents involving donkey deaths due to lions are extremely rare. Club members can’t remember the last time a member of the donkey herd was killed by a mountain lion. “It has about the same probability as a golfer getting a hole-in-one,” related Cline. “This is an extremely rare incident.”
According to club officials, the donkeys sometimes get chased by mountain lions, coyotes or other wildlife, but they are rarely attacked.
Mountain lions typically are afraid of large herds. In fact, Cline has even speculated that in the latest incident, the remainder of the donkeys may have spotted the attacker and then tried to come to Scout’s rescue. “They may have just said ‘enough is enough” said Cline. He noted that the donkey victim suffered a fatal neck wound, but the attacker didn’t devour any other sections of the animal.
“They can kick them to death,” added Litherland, when explaining the power of the entire herd when confronting a mountain lion.
The incident, though, has reinforced one unfortunate reality with the town’s herd. “Our donkeys are getting older,” admitted Litherland. Some of the animals are pushing into their 20s. Rarely do donkeys live past the age of 30. The town donkeys currently reside in a secure pasture area in the winter until mid-May. Then, they hang out throughout the town.
Even with the latest fatality, Cline afraid to boast of the superb treatment of the town’s donkeys by the Two Mile High Club members. “Our donkeys are treated better than most kids,” quipped Cline.
The herd is regarded as one of the town’s prime tourist attractions. During the annual Best Of contests sponsored by The Mountain Jackpot, the Two Mile High donkeys typically win top accolades as the town’s best personality.
Scout, according to Cline, was known as one of the more stubborn members of the herd, who strongly protested against any efforts to place anything over his neck for animal vaccinations or for illness prevention purposes. “Scout definitely lived up to their reputation for being extremely stubborn,” said Cline. “He will be missed.”
The incident has also sparked many questions about mountain lions and other dangerous wildlife in the area.
According to Cline, Division of Wildlife officials advised him that the region has encountered a record amount of coyotes. With this scenario, these animals often compete with each other for food sources. Typically, lions often feed off deer, foxes, and occasionally attack dogs and cats.
In the last week, the area has been bombarded by reports and rumors of mountain lion sightings.
But as wildlife officials are fond of saying, “this s lion country.”