Lion encounters more likely with growth | PostIndependent.com

Lion encounters more likely with growth

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

Two mountain lions have recently been put down by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in western Colorado, and some worry that human conflicts with these animals won’t lessen with growth of population and development.

Most recently CPW put down a lion in Redlands just west of Grand Junction between the city and Colorado National Monument.

After reports of the mountain lion in a Redlands neighborhood in December, a CPW officer tracked down the animal and eventually had to make a judgment call about how to deal with the animal, said CPW spokesman Mike Porras.

Reports came in to CPW about the lion attacking dogs, killing chickens and a goat. The lion was starting to lose its fear of people as well, “which is when we get very concerned,” said Porras.

The neighborhood provided a good habitat for smaller animals, which are prey for mountain lions.

A lion might come into this kind of area where there’s available food, and then it might get comfortable, said Porras.

A neighborhood can provide a mountain lion a food source along with cover and habitat. And one might be in the area for quite a while before people realize it, he said.

The people living in Redlands were very alarmed to find a mountain lion was in their neighborhood, but it was probably in the area longer than those people realized, said Porras.

Earlier in December, a lion in Steamboat Springs killed a resident’s dog and dragged it under a house deck. The animal holed up under the deck for the next day, and it became a risky situation for an officer to crawl in close and use a tranquilizer, said Porras.

For that lion, CPW had a licensed hunter come in to kill the animal. Colorado state law requires that big game animals are prepared for human consumption, so the lion wasn’t wasted, he said.

Killing a mountain lion isn’t the first option that CPW goes to unless the animal is being aggressive or shows a lack of fear for humans, said Porras. An officer’s first priority is to protect health and human safety, he said.

CPW officers might also try “hazing” the animal, using a variety of techniques to scare the animal out of the area.

Depending upon the animal, that might mean anything from banging pots and pans together to rubber bullets to pyrotechnics, he said.

Or the agency could relocate a problem animal, but relocation comes with its own problems, said Porras.

Trapping a mountain lion is very difficult, and the areas that are good for relocation are shrinking from new development, he said. And relocating the animal doesn’t mean you’ve eliminated all the circumstances leading to its conflict with humans in the first place.

The team in Redlands initially tried to trap the lion, but when it became a safety threat, they decided to put it down, according to CPW.

“Our officers are professionals trained to judge each of these situations on its own merits and make that call.”

Problems with mountain lions are relatively rare, but the population continues to grow and development keeps pushing into wildlife areas, Porras said.

Winter is the time of year when animals move down from high, cold elevations. They’ll keep migrating for the season like they have for eons, said Porras, but that means the predators will follow them looking for a meal.

Lions are usually shy, reclusive animals, and someone living in Colorado very well might have never seen one, he said.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife isn’t trying to get rid of the mountain lions, it’s trying to manage the animal population in a healthy way and educate people about how to live in and around animal habitat, said Porras.

To stay safe in mountain lion country, CPW recommends: Never feed wildlife, avoid planting non-native vegetation that are good deer snacks, make plenty of noise while you’re out at dawn and dusk (when lions are most active), install lighting in walkways, supervise children outdoors, avoid planting vegetation that would make good hiding, keep pets from roaming unchecked and hike in groups.

For more information about living near mountain lion habitat, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeLion1.aspx.


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