Officials: Avoid attracting wildlife in neighborhoods
IF YOU ENCOUNTER A MOUNTAIN LION:
Remember, every situation is different with respect to mountain lions, terrain, people and their activity.
Do not approach a mountain lion.
Stop, or back away slowly. Don’t ever turn your back on a mountain lion. Running away stimulates a mountain lion’s instinct to chase and attack.
Do all you can to appear large.
If the mountain lion behaves aggressively, then throw stones or whatever you can get your hands on without bending over or turning your back. Wave your arms and speak firmly. Try to convince the animal you are not prey.
Fight back if a mountain lion attacks as people have fought back with everything from rocks to their bare hands successfully. Remain standing or try to get back up.
Source: Colorado Parks & Wildlife
EAGLE COUNTY — With two mountain lions coming into two different residential areas and killing dogs within a week of each other, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife is reminding residents that attracting wildlife can lead to a predator coming to your neighborhood.
On Thursday, a dog was killed by a mountain lion on Forest Road in Vail near Lionshead, and on Jan. 14, a mountain lion came onto a property in Red Cliff and killed a dog.
There is a robust mountain lion population in the state, and it’s not uncommon to see the animals this time of year because of migrating wildlife, especially in areas where there are deer and other prey, said Mike Porras, of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife office in Grand Junction.
“The most important thing is to avoid attracting wildlife to your neighborhoods,” Porras said. “That really is key. Lions eat deer; they’re not out looking for dogs, but they are opportunistic predators, and if they see a dog, they are going to take that opportunity.”
Residents feed wildlife because they feel the need to help and they want to see animals in their natural habitat, Porras said, but feeding small animals in turn attracts larger wildlife that in turn attracts predators.
“There’s a lot of really bad reasons for people to feed wildlife, and attracting predators is a primary concern,” Porras said.
THREAT TO HUMANS
Lion sightings are rare, Porras said, but lion attacks on humans are even rarer. It’s not a common occurrence, he said, but it does happen.
The most recent mountain lion attack on a human near Eagle County came in July north of Dotsero. A man was fishing, “and all of a sudden a lion was on him,” Porras said. The angler was able to drive himself to a local clinic, and the mountain lion was tracked and killed not far from the area of the initial attack.
“It’s not that lions are hunting humans; they’re hunting four-legged prey,” Porras said. “But when you have wildlife and large predators in close proximity to a populated area, there’s potential for serious injury or potential for the worst.”
Education about mountain lions, and really all wildlife that live in the high country, is “critical” to public safety, Porras said.
“The most important thing about living with wildlife is to become educated,” he said. “We have a wide variety of species across the state — elk, deer, moose, lions, bears. What we try to do is maintain healthy populations and educate people to learn to live with wildlife.”
Even with proactive approaches, Porras said mountain lions and other predators can enter residential areas anyway, so it’s the responsibility of residents to educate themselves.
The Colorado Parks & Wildlife has valuable information on its website about living with mountain lions and other predators in the high country at http://www.cpw.co.us.
The concern is that wildlife is unpredictable, and mountain lions are “large, powerful predators, and they can cause severe injury,” Porras said. Another reason not to feed, approach or harass wildlife is because if the animal does injure a human, then that animal is likely to be put down by wildlife officials, he said.
Wildlife officials advise residents to “make a habit year ’round” to avoid conflict and human injuries.
“We’re really lucky to have plentiful wildlife in this state,” Porras said, “but it falls upon people to learn about the different species, behaviors and how to avoid conflict.”