Mountain lion enters home in Salida
Summit County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SALIDA, Colorado – An apparently malnourished mountain lion entered a Chaffee County residence Thursday, killing one dog and briefly trapping a mother and her two children inside the house.
Chaffee County Sheriff deputies evacuated the people from the home, and Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) officers tranquilized the lion.
The animal appeared to be significantly underweight for its age, according to DOW Area Wildlife Manager Jim Aragon. Officers decided to euthanize the animal after evaluating its condition, Aragon said. It is highly unusual for a mountain lion to enter a building.
“We will know more after we get the results of the necropsy, but this animal was not demonstrating normal behavior,” Aragon said.
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The incident began just after 4 p.m., when the lion chased a small dog through a pet door into the home, located about nine miles northwest of Salida.
Michelle Bese and two children, ages 2 and 5, were in the house when the lion entered. The 2-year-old was asleep in a bedroom. Bese and the 5-year-old were sitting at the kitchen table when the animal entered the house. Four other small dogs were also in the home.
At first, Bese did not know whether the animal was a coyote or lion. Then another dog confronted it, and she could tell it was a lion. She took her 5-year-old and ran to the back bedroom, where the other child was sleeping. She shut the door behind her and called 911.
Chaffee County Sheriff deputies arrived and helped the woman and her children escape through a bedroom window. They also opened the home’s front and rear doors to provide the lion with an opportunity to leave. However, when two DOW officers arrived a few minutes later, the lion was still inside the house.
“I looked in a bedroom window and could see a dog which I believed to be dead,” Aragon said. “The lion was in the same room, so I pounded on the window and side of the house in an attempt to get the lion to leave through one of the open doors.”
After several other attempts to get the lion to leave, Aragon, wildlife officer Kim Woodruff and sheriff’s deputy Rod Lane entered the house through the back bedroom window. The lion was in a room directly across the hall.
“We cracked the door open wide enough to see the lion and were able to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart,” Aragon said.
The team located four of the five dogs and transported them to a veterinary clinic. The fifth was later discovered hiding in the home.
All of the dogs, which included a Jack Russell terrier and four Shih Tzus, suffered wounds during the encounter. One dog eventually died, and two others were seriously injured.
The young male lion, which is believed to be about a 1.5 years old, only weighed about 40 pounds.
“A healthy lion of that age should be closer to 60 pounds,” Aragon said.
The lion’s remains will be sent to a DOW lab in Fort Collins for analysis, which is standard procedure.
“We hope to learn more after we get the results of the necropsy,” Aragon said.
Mountain lions have broad ranges across Colorado, including Summit County, but human-lion encounters are rather rare in the area.
According to DOW spokesman Randy Hampton, sightings are common along the Dillon Dam Road.
“It’s not at all unusual for people to see mountain lions in Summit County, but they don’t want to see you any more than you want to see them,” Hampton said.
Mountain lion sightings are more common in winter than in summer. The large cats are effective predators, and they follow deer herds down to lower elevations in the winter. During warmer months, deer return to higher elevations, luring the lions away from valleys and rivers, where human activity is more common.
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