NEW CASTLE, Colo. - Residents of western Colorado know the dangers that exist when wildlife and family pets meet.
For Pete Rock and Barb Reinke-Rock, the dangers became all too real Thanksgiving night when their 5-year-old yellow Lab, Chloe, was dragged off and killed by a mountain lion at their East Elk Creek home.
The couple came home from having a holiday dinner in Rifle around 8 p.m. that night to find their two dogs, a silver Lab and Chloe, both gone. They found Chloe's remains about a quarter-mile away from their home Friday.
"We weren't home when it happened, so we didn't actually see it," Barb said.
But that doesn't make the loss of the pet any easier for a pet lover like Barb.
"My greatest concern is that the dogs weren't away from our house," she said. "[The dogs] were on our deck, and this mountain lion came up and got our big yellow Lab off of our deck. I just think people should be aware.
"When is it going to be a kid, or something else?"
Both Barb and Pete have lived in the area all their lives and never before had any trouble with mountain lions, she said.
"We know that living up in the country you will have different wildlife; that goes with the territory," she said. "We've had a lot of bear problems up here with black bears, but never with mountain lions."
Mountain lion attacks are more common during the late fall and early winter months, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said. He cautions residents to be aware before letting their pets outside this time of year.
"Typically, this is the time of year that that activity increases," Hampton said. "People live in the valley floor, and during the winter, the deer concentrate in those areas and the mountain lions follow them."
Hampton said the DOW typically receives a couple of calls about mountain lion attacks in the Rifle and Glenwood Springs areas each year. However, he said the DOW will receive about one call per week, regarding mountain lion incidents statewide, this time of year. Attacks tend to occur in the hours of dusk and dawn, he said.
According to Hampton, the DOW will not attempt to trap, relocate or put down a mountain lion in cases involving domestic pets.
"If a person is injured, we are going to aggressively pursue animals involved in those situations," Hampton said. "When it comes to pets and things like that, we try to educate the public the best we can."
However, Colorado law states that property owners can kill mountain lions, or other wildlife, which are attacking or killing livestock or damaging personal property. But as far as domestic pets are concerned, they don't fall into those categories, Hampton said.
"Protecting people and livestock is something they have the right to do," he said.
Beyond that, living in an area with mountain lions and other predators, the DOW's focus is educating people on living with wildlife.
"We have a tremendous amount of information available on the website for people," Hampton said.
He indicated that in the specific case like Barb's, the pet owner can apply for a mountain lion hunting tag and attempt to deal with the situation that way.
"It would certainly be acceptable for them to do that," Hampton said.
Mountain lion season started on Nov. 22 and runs through March 31 for most game management units in the state.
Barb said that they were considering that option in order to protect their other pets and themselves but have not gotten a hunting tag just yet.