Mountain lion prowling around Aspen? |

Mountain lion prowling around Aspen?

ASPEN, Colorado ” A mountain lion is believed to be hunting in the hills and woods around Aspen, and may be responsible for the unusual number of dead elk, deer and other animals that have been cropping up along local trails, officials said this week.

Although the officials said there is no cause for alarm among residents, because lions are a relatively constant presence in this region, they did advise people keep their pets and small children close by during the spring months and be alert when walking or jogging along local footpaths and trails.

An adult lion was photographed in the Fryingpan River drainage recently.

And a wildlife expert working for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies determined that an elk carcass found lying next to the Rio Grande Trail near Aspen recently was either killed by a lion or was scavenged by one, said the institute’s director, Tom Cardamone.

“For sure, there’s a lion in that neighborhood, or there was a couple of weeks ago,” Cardamone said.

Lions have visited the same area in the past, including 1995 when his son came face to face with one while riding on a biking trail, and rode away without incident, he said.

Cardamone, along with state wildlife officials, said that it has always been true that lions hunt the hills around Aspen, as they do throughout the Western Slope.

Mountain lions typically range across dozens or even hundreds of square miles, Cardamone.

The cats usually climb out of one drainage, cross a ridge and drop into a neighboring drainage in order to spread their attentions among different prey populations and “retain the element of surprise,” he said.

Randy Hampton of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said that each year there are reports of mountain lions all over the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies.

“All of Western Colorado is prime mountain lion habitat,” he said.

Among the reports over the past couple of years was a lion in the Conundrum Creek area that killed some domestic dogs, and an adult cat that was run over by a car in Snowmass Canyon on Highway 82 a couple of years ago.

But while the lions will take down large game animals, pets and small animals, Hampton and other officials agreed, they do not often bother adult humans.

“They want, for the most part, nothing to do with people,” said Hampton.

Making noise while hiking can scare lions off but if you do meet one, Hampton says, don’t approach it or look it in the eyes. Speak calmly, back away slowly and raise your arms or open your coat to appear larger, he says.

If the lion approaches, throwing things at it also can scare it off though bending down to pick something up may cause the lion to pounce, he says.

If a lion does attack, “fight back with everything you’ve got,” said Hampton.

“There are more stories of people fighting lions off than there are stories of the mountain lion winning the fight.”

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