Colo. man shoots cougar after encounter on road
August 6, 2008
NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” A man walking with his wife on a country road in western Colorado shot and killed a mountain lion he said was advancing on them.
The incident happened Tuesday, a day after a mountain lion crept through the open doors of a house in the Denver foothills and snatched a Labrador retriever from a bedroom where the homeowners were sleeping.
Wildlife officers trapped and killed that cat Monday night.
In Tuesday’s case, a couple were walking on a road about two miles north of New Castle, about 170 miles west of Denver, when a mountain lion emerged from bushes alongside the road. The two told state wildlife officers that they yelled, waved their arms and backed away slowly, trying to scare the mountain lion away without startling it.
But the couple said the mountain lion was down low and kept moving toward them. The man drew a pistol he was carrying and shot the cat.
“Our investigation shows the mountain lion was about 6 feet away before the man fired a shot,” Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said. “The couple indicated they felt terrible they even had to do this.”
Hampton didn’t have the couple’s names because all the paperwork on the encounter wasn’t finished. He said the division’s investigation indicated the two did nothing wrong and they won’t be cited in the shooting.
“We felt this was a situation, where had they not been armed, we would’ve been dealing with a very different story today,” Hampton said.
The cat in Tuesday’s incident was a young male and underweight at 60 pounds. Hampton said preliminary results from a necropsy ” the animal equivalent of an autopsy ” show the mountain lion had pneumonia, bronchitis and probably hadn’t eaten in several days.
The location of the faceoff is about 6,500 feet in altitude and wooded, with pinon pine and juniper trees. Hampton said the area, like much of Colorado, is good mountain lion habitat.
Hampton said mountain lions are usually elusive and try to avoid people. He said such encounters are rare.
“There are less than a half dozen mountain lion incidents nationwide” a year, Hampton said.
The last fatal attack by a mountain lion in Colorado was July 1997, when a 10-year-old Denver-area boy running ahead of his family on a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park was jumped by a female cat.
Colorado has an estimated 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions. The Division of Wildlife is conducting studies in western Colorado and in the Boulder area, northwest of Denver, to get a better idea of the population’s size and behavior.
Adult male mountain lions can grow to more than 8 feet long and weigh 150 pounds. Their tail may be one-third of their total length.