Alamosa CO residents alerted to presence of cougar


Mar 11, 2001
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CO Division of Wildlife


The discovery of mountain lion tracks in Alamosa has prompted the Division of Wildlife to remind San Luis Valley residents about the basics of mountain lion safety tips.


The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has received reports of mountain lion tracks on the west side of Alamosa along the river corridor near the golf course. Area Wildlife Manager Jeff Madison said the DOW has had indications of mountain lion activity along the river bottom on and off for the past couple of years.

"Lions in Colorado are a normal part of the life cycle," said Madison. "Some mountain lions seem to be able to live in the vicinity of humans without conflict. Most lions stay in the mountains and foothills, but it is not unusual for a lion to prey on deer on the valley floor, especially along the river bottom."

Mountain lions are active year-round. They are generally most active at night. Madison suggests residents on the west side avoid jogging alone – especially between the hours of sunset and sunrise.

"We don’t want to scare anyone, but we want people in the valley to know about the mountain lion," said Madison. "So far, we don’t know of anyone seeing it but people have found tracks."

The DOW estimates there are between 1,500 and 3,000 mountain lions in the state. While the number of mountain lions in Colorado has remained fairly stable, the increasing number of people means the chances of a close encounter between lions and humans has also increased.

Most people have a natural fear of wild predators, and big cats are especially fearsome. However, when people take safety precautions, mountain lions are not likely to attack.

Since 1890, there have been fewer than a dozen fatal attacks on humans by mountain lions in the United States.

In Colorado, there have been two deaths from lion attacks: a 10-year-old Lakewood boy died during a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1997 and an 18-year-old man was killed while jogging near Idaho Springs in 1991. There have been about a dozen recorded mountain lion attacks on people in the state, almost all between 1990 and the present.

Mountain lions will travel large distances – as much as 20 miles in a day – following the movements of their natural prey: deer and small mammals. (Some studies in Colorado have shown that almost 70 percent of a mountain lion’s diet is deer.) If there are deer in an area, it is possible, and quite likely, that mountain lions are in the area also. A mountain lion passing through a backyard or neighborhood is usually not a problem, but residents should remember some basic safety tips.

Precautions for living and recreating in lion country:
+ If you see a lion, do not approach it. Stay calm and stand upright. Talk loudly and firmly at the lion and back away slowly. Do not turn your back.
+ Do not run: Some experts believe that running can trigger a predator instinct in mountain lions; the lion will react to you the same way it reacts to a fleeing deer or elk.
+ Do all you can to appear larger: raise your arms and hold your jacket or shirt open wide.
+ Mountain lions tend to avoid people and rarely attack unless cornered. A cougar that is about to attack may have ears held back, snarl or growl, or twitch its tail.
+ If the lion appears aggressive, throw stones, branches, your backpack or anything that is handy.
+ If attacked, fight for your life. Use any weapon and advantage available such as rocks, binoculars or flashlight. Direct your defense to vulnerable areas such as eyes, inner nose and ears, ribs and abdomen.
+ Stay in groups when hiking, cycling or running in lion country. Do not let small children hike or play alone.
+ Make enough noise when hiking, cycling or running that you do not get too close without them hearing you coming. Lions that hear you coming will leave an area before you get there.
+ Never approach or touch lion cubs or other baby animals, even if they appear “abandoned.” Mother mountain lions are extremely protective of their young. If you believe you have found an abandoned cub, call your local animal control officer or the Division of Wildlife.
+ If you find a dead animal on or near your property, have it removed promptly. Mountain lions often cover dead animals with leaves or dirt and return later to feed. This includes wild animals, livestock and pets.
+ Keep yards and residences well-lit at night.
+ Do not plant shrubs next to your home where mountain lions can hide.
+ Keep dogs and other pets inside. If you keep dogs in a kennel, be sure it is enclosed with a screen on top. Dogs have been trapped and attacked inside their own open-top kennels.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has a free brochure titled "Living with Wildlife in Mountain Lion Country." Copies are available at the Division of Wildlife Office in Monte Vista, or by calling (719) 587-6900.
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