Mountain lion on the prowl in Silt area
SILT – Residents in the Silt area say a mountain lion has been attacking their farm animals, but some of them differ on what should be done about it.Sheep rancher James Bair said he’d like the Colorado Division of Wildlife to kill the lion that killed at least two of his sheep up First Street several weeks ago. A lion sighting also was reported on the bike path at the Eagle View Subdivision about six weeks ago, Silt Police Chief Paul Taylor said. Bair said he continues to hear of lion sightings and thinks one is still in the area.”If nobody has killed him he’s still around,” Bair said.The same lion may have killed a chicken in a subdivision north of Silt about a week ago and attacked an old horse. Heather Tharp, who lives on Panoramic Drive, said a neighbor saw a lion attack a chicken in the middle of the afternoon.”He took it, and she screamed and ran after him and hollered at him or whatever. He did drop the chicken, but it was dead, and he went on his way,” Tharp said.A day or two later, on April 22, Tharp’s 31-year-old horse, Dobbin, which has a lame leg and is blind in one eye, was attacked by something. Tharp had been away and discovered his injuries upon returning home.”He looked kind of funny, and I looked over at him, and his front legs were all bloody,” she said.Tharp said she can’t be sure but thinks a lion attacked the horse. Tharp found blood on the door and walls of Dobbin’s shed.”His lame leg is much lamer, so I think he was probably fighting, trying to get out somewhere, away from that lion,” she said.But Tharp said she doesn’t want the lion killed.”Wildlife is a component of this beautiful place,” she said.She hasn’t heard of any lion sightings since and hopes the animal has returned to the high country. She also can’t figure out why a lion would attack domestic animals.”There are lots and lots of deer around. I’m looking at one, two, three, four right in my back yard. I don’t understand why he’s not taking down a deer, quite frankly,” she said.DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said lions are opportunistic hunters that will attack domestic animals.”Lions are going to look for food. A horse is in a pasture. A deer can run a long way,” he said.Hampton wasn’t familiar with the Silt lion encounters and was unable to reach local wildlife officers Saturday for details about the situation. Taylor said game officials tried to locate the lion that was seen on the bike path but weren’t successful.Bair said he heard a lion hunter was called in when it was still lion season.”Now that it’s over I don’t know if they’re doing anything,” he said. “It’s a concern for me until someone kills it,” he said.The DOW has reimbursed Bair for his two dead sheep, but it’s possible the lion killed more sheep, Bair said. He said his sheep are now being corraled and watched at night to help protect them.”We have (guard) dogs there, but they can’t watch everything all the time,” he said.He said he has heard that some people are afraid to let their kids walk home from school because of the recent encounters. He worries the lion may attack colts, dogs and even humans.Taylor said the safety of children would be a concern if the lion on the bike path had stayed around, but it didn’t. He hasn’t heard of any more sightings in town since the one six weeks ago.While it’s unusual for people to see them, mountain lions have been in the Silt area “forever,” Taylor said.Indeed, Hampton said all of Colorado is good mountain lion terrain. If the DOW does respond to an encounter and finds a lion, it can be hard to know if it is the same one that was first encountered because the animals’ ranges are so large.In deciding how to respond, officials will consider an animal’s location and the threat it poses, Hampton said. Sometimes, they may just try to haze it back to more remote country. If it has been aggressive, they will try to kill it.The DOW recently tracked and killed what it believes was the lion that attacked a 7-year-old in Boulder. Hampton said relocating an aggressive lion isn’t an option.”Where are we going to relocate it? If I take a lion and I move it to 10 miles north of Aspen, what are the people in Aspen going to think?”Tharp said she understands if it turns out the Silt lion has to be destroyed.”If would kill me if someone’s children got hurt,” she said.Hampton said destroying a lion wouldn’t necessarily bring an end to encounters.”The truth is we could go in and kill that lion and say, ‘Oh, it’s close to Silt,’ and another lion would move in right behind it. Because there’s something that’s there that’s attracting that lion. And that same something is there after that lion is gone,” he said.Still, lions generally don’t want to be around humans, and lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, he said.People worried about lions can take precautions such as not jogging alone, particularly at dawn and dusk, and keeping an eye on kids and pets during activities such as hiking, Hampton said.
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