Mountain lion sighting prompts warnings in Gypsum | VailDaily.com

Mountain lion sighting prompts warnings in Gypsum

A pair of mountain lions, one in the window sill and one on the roof, sun themselves in a Gypsum backyard. Town residents were warned this week that a mountain has been sighted in the Willowstone neighborhood.

GYPSUM — When some homeowners in Gypsum's Willowstone development reviewed images from their backyard game camera during the weekend they were startled to see a mountain lion was one of their neighborhood visitors.

Gypsum officials sent out warnings during the weekend and again Tuesday morning to let residents know about the mountain lion sighting. According to Craig Wescoatt of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, mountain lions are active all year in Eagle County, but during this time of year the animals are hunting closer to where people live.

"They follow their prey species, so when the deer move closer to developed areas, so do the mountain lions," Wescoatt said. "Raccoons and fox are also edible items to mountain lions."

Mountain lions will also occasionally attack pets. That's what happened last year to a West Vail resident. The safety messages sent out this week specifically asked Gypsum residents to keep an eye on small children and pets playing outside. Wescoatt added mountain lions are in hunting mode during the dusk to dawn hours, so it is a good idea to turn on outdoor lights and make some noise when you let the dog out to do its business at night.

“They follow their prey species, so when the deer move closer to developed areas, so do the mountain lions. Raccoons and fox are also edible items to mountain lions.”Craig WescoattColorado Parks and Wildlife

"Just be aware and take precautions," Wescoatt said.

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Recent sightings

Amber Mulson-Barrett of the Eagle County Sheriff's Office noted the reports from Gypsum are the latest in a series of mountain lion sightings so far this year. Mountain lions have also been spotted in the Lake Creek area of Edwards, Avon's Wildridge neighborhood and Gypsum's Buckhorn Valley area. She echoed Wescoatt's advice.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife website notes mountain lions are "generally calm, quiet and elusive … They tend to live in remote, primitive country with plentiful deer and adequate cover. Such conditions exist in mountain subdivisions, urban fringes and open spaces. Recently, the number of mountain lion and human interactions has increased."

Wildlife officials say the increase in mountain lion and human interactions is due to several factors; including more people moving into lion habitat, increases in deer populations and density, more people using hiking and running trails in lion habitat and a greater awareness of the presence of lions.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers the following advice to anyone who lives or recreates in mountain lion territory:

• Go in groups when you walk or hike in mountain lion country and make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea; it can be used to ward off a lion.

• Make sure children are close to you and within your sight at all times. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.

• Do not approach a lion, especially one who is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation.

• Give them a way to escape.

• Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly.

• Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.

• Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you're wearing one. If you have small children with you, then protect them by picking them up so they won't panic and run.

• If the lion behaves aggressively, then throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and you may in fact be a danger to the lion.

• Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey which fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands successfully. Remain standing or try to get back up.

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