Colorado Parks and Wildlife kills mountain lion responsible for killing goats in Dillon
Colorado Parks and Wildlife was forced to kill a mountain lion this week that had become habituated to residential areas in Summit County, according to officials with the organization.
On the morning of Jan. 26, wildlife officers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) responded to a residence off of Ptarmigan Trail Road near Interstate 70 in Dillon. Sometime the night before, a mountain lion killed three domesticated goats in one of the resident’s yards.
According to CPW Spokesman Mike Porras, officers identified the lion as the same animal that had been seen in the area a number of times before, and made the decision that because of its apparent habituation to the area, it had become danger to human health and safety.
“This is not something that anybody likes to do,” said Porras. “Our officers didn’t get into this business to kill animals. But we had a young, male lion hunting in a residential area — where there are people, and kids, and pets around. The more comfortable a predator like this is around people, the more dangerous it is. At that point there’s nothing we can do to relocate, or to rehabilitate it to stay away from people.”
Porras said that once a lion becomes habituated to a residential area, they’re almost impossible to relocate. He noted that due to the territorial nature of the animals, any efforts to relocate the cat would likely result in deadly conflict with another lion, seeing the cat return to Dillon where it knows there’s a food source, or continuing to wander into residential areas near wherever it’s relocated.
On Monday, officers with CPW tracked down the lion with the help of dogs, and killed it. Porras noted that the animal’s meat would be donated to local people in need.
“In this case, and typically how lions are hunted, they are treed and put down as humanely as possible,” Porras said. “We feel confident this is the lion involved. It was seen several times in the area.”
Even for lifelong residents, the chances of spotting a mountain lion are relatively slim. According to CPW, lions are generally calm, quiet and very elusive, preferring to avoid conflict with humans whenever possible. Though, as mountain communities continue to grow, sightings are becoming more common.
“To keep things in perspective, there’s a good chance you could live here your entire life and never see one,” Porras said. “But we have more people, and more neighborhoods growing into lion habitats, and the chances of encounters and conflicts are increasing.”
According to CPW, when walking in lion country, you should travel in groups and try and make plenty of noise so that you don’t surprise a lion. If you do run into a mountain lion you should stand your ground, and never run. If the lion acts aggressively, or continues to approach, raise your hands over your head to try and appear bigger, yell loudly, and throw stones or whatever you can grab without turning your back on the animal. If a lion attacks you, fight back as aggressively as possible to try and drive it away. For more information on living in mountain lion territory, or for navigating lion encounters, visit CPW’s website.
It’s also important that community members do their best not to encourage mountain lions to enter residential areas. Porras said that feeding smaller animals, or especially lions’ natural prey like deer, might be driving some lions to make their way into neighborhoods in search of easy meals. As a rule, feeding wildlife is never a good idea, and is even illegal in many cases.
Residents should also contact CPW immediately if they spot an aggressive lion, or one hunting in residential areas. Porras noted that if wildlife officers are able to find the animal before it gets habituated, they may be able to relocate it in lieu of killing it. To report a mountain lion sighting, call the northwest region CPW office in Grand Junction at (970) 255-6100.
“It’s the responsibility of anyone who lives or recreates here to know what to do or what not to do when it comes to wildlife,” said Porras. “Lions are apex predators, and can be extremely dangerous when they’re near people. … It’s important for folks to know that these conflicts can be something that happens. If you live in this state, you can anticipate that it could happen to you. So getting education is key.”