Park and Wildlife Officials Outline Protective Measures to Take
Over the last month or so, headlines across the state have depicted a series of mountain lion sightings in neighborhoods from Teller County to Northern Colorado.
Many of the reports have highlighted videos or image attachments, showing large wild cats roaming freely across private properties, and sometimes featuring families of three or four.
In early March, the Woodland Park Police Department sent out a notice that warned residents that there had been several mountain lion sightings reported in the area of King’s Crown Rd. and Paradise Valley Dr. on the city’s east side. The department asked people to use extra caution in the area, especially with children using the bus stop behind the Goodwill store.
Then later that month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) shared video footage of a family of mountain lions roaming around Woodland Park to warn people to be aware of their surroundings and that wild animals are a reality of mountain living. The video showed the family of cougars walking through a house’s backyard caught on an outdoor camera someone in Woodland Park had.
Reports like this are commonplace in Green Mountain Falls, Cascade and the lower Ute Pass.
More Video Sightings and Not More Wild Cats
However, according to CPW officials, there have not necessarily been more mountain lion sightings this year than any other years. “I don’t think the amount of lion activity we have had reported and what we have been seeing is unusual this year compared to others,” local CPW officer Tyson Floersheim said.
He did say that even though there hasn’t been more mountain lion activity this year, it has been documented better than it has been in the past. Now that several people have doorbell cameras and other outdoor cameras, they are catching footage of lions when humans aren’t usually active, according to the CPW officer.
Floersheim also said that mountain lions will come into towns, when they are active at night and in the early morning hours. “They are opportunistic and they will follow their food sources,” the wildlife officer said. “We have a pretty robust deer population up in Teller County. Especially with the amount of deer we have in the cities, the lions are going to follow that food source.”
He said that lions will also take advantage of other critters like raccoons coming into town and people leaving their dogs outside. For tips to prevent mountain lion encounters he advised people to go online and read the CPW pamphlet called “Living with Lions” on the CPW website.
Protective Steps to Take
“Especially with the weather getting nicer with folks going out hiking and walking, it’s generally a good idea to walk or hike in groups, at least in pairs while making plenty of noise,” Floersheim said. “You don’t want to surprise the lion, the chances are they already know you are there, but the more apparent you can make yourself the better.”
And that even though it is rare, it is possible for someone to see a mountain lion while out on a hike or walk. “If you do see a lion, don’t approach it obviously,” the officer continued. “Make sure you are giving them an escape route. You never want to back them into a corner or into an area where they feel like they can’t escape easily.”
If someone does see a lion it is a good idea to not turn their back to it. People are also told to make themselves appear large and wave their hands while yelling loudly.
It is also a good idea to try to throw nearby objects at the lion to try to scare it away. “In the rare case where somebody ever did find themselves in a lion attack, fighting back is really the best thing they can do,” Floersheim explained. “Going for the soft spots like eyes and nose can also be helpful.”
He said that it is tough to completely prevent lions from coming into yards, but there are things like having outdoor lighting that can help. He also said to get rid of dense vegetation and any areas in a yard where a mountain lion could hide.
One of the main steps property owners can take to keep mountain lions out of their yards is to mitigate their food source. The officer advised people to eliminate anything that will bring smaller animals into their yards and to never feed wildlife.
The officer said that mountain lion attacks are very rare. Since the lions don’t see humans as a food source, they are not likely to attack.
The CPW officer said that even seeing a mountain lion is a very rare experience. He reiterated that most of the recent sightings have been caught on outdoor cameras at night when most people are asleep.