GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are alerting the public to recent mountain lion activity in the area, including one incident in which a dog was dragged off and presumably killed by a cougar at the Sunlight Inn up Four Mile Road.
According to Pierre Dubois, who co-owns the inn with his wife, Gretchen, the couple had returned home from dinner out about 10 p.m. Wednesday and let their two small dogs out.
The dogs were no more than about 10 feet off their deck, Pierre said, when the couple heard barking. They ran out to see a mountain lion over their 14-year-old poodle-Shih Tzu, Black Jack.
The cat picked up the dog and headed toward nearby Four Mile Creek. That was the last they saw of him. Their other dog, a 4-year-old Shih Tzu, was not injured.
"We're getting over it, but you can't really get over something like that," Dubois said.
He said they've observed mountain lions in the area before, but usually just crossing the road in the distance.
"We've never seen them that close to the inn," he said.
Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said wildlife officers do not intend to try to hunt down the lion, as it did not pose a threat to humans.
"A mountain lion does not distinguish a pet from prey," Porras said. "The dog most likely resembled prey, and the mountain lion acted in a way it normally would act.
"The cat was not aggressive and did not act in a threatening way toward humans," he said.
Still, people should be aware that they are in prime mountain lion country, and human encounters with one of the big cats is not uncommon. That includes remote areas like Sunlight, or even down in the valley and in towns.
The morning after the mountain lion incident at Sunlight, several people in Carbondale reported seeing a mountain lion strolling through the north end of town around 8 a.m.
The cat was reportedly first seen in the Mountain Valley Mobile Home Park near the Rio Grand Trail, then made its way through several Carbondale neighborhoods and was last seen headed toward the Carbondale Nature Park, Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said. Wildlife officials were immediately notified, he said.
Given the time of day, just after sun up, "That was a little unusual, but not entirely unexpected," Porras said of the Carbondale sighting. "We did warn people in the area, but there didn't seem to be any imminent threat."
Wildlife officers do not believe the two mountain lion sightings, although within just a few hours of each other, are in any way connected.
"The officers are very confident that they're not related," Porras said. "There's too much distance in between."
Porras advises that people avoid being out by themselves or walking pets after dark or before dawn.
"This was an unfortunate event," he said of the Sunlight incident. "But it's also a good opportunity to remind people that this is mountain lion country, and there is always a chance you could encounter one."
People should keep a close eye on their pets or have them on a leash, especially at night, Porras said.
Mountain lions, or cougars, do not consider humans as prey, "but that's not to say they won't attack a human," he said.
"If you do encounter a mountain lion, try to make yourself look as big as you can by putting your arms in the air," he said. "If you are attacked, you want to fight back as vigorously as possible."
More information on mountain lion safety can be found at http://wildlife.state.co.us/NewsMedia/Videos/Pages/mountainlionsafety.aspx