Mountain lion on prowl near Aspen? |

Mountain lion on prowl near Aspen?

John ColsonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN 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 to hand 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 ACES Executive Director Tom Cardamone.For sure, theres a lion in that neighborhood, or there was a couple of weeks ago, said Cardamone on Friday. He noted that 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.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.Noting that mountain lions typically range across dozens or even hundreds of square miles, Cardamone said it is possible a big cat spotted in the Fryingpan drainage two weeks ago might have traveled from there to Aspen in the intervening time. He added that 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.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.Its not unheard of, but they typically dont mess with people, said John Armstrong, ranger for the Pitkin County Open Space & Trails department.Hampton said that people should not be overly afraid of the big cats, but should remain vigilant when walking in the hills or along local trails.We dont want to be alarmist, but at the same time we dont want to be nonchalant, he said, noting that attacks on people, sometimes fatal, have been recorded in the Boulder area and in California in recent decades.Hampton said the DOW has a list of recommended actions for anyone hiking in the wilds, including what to do if a mountain lion appears: Make as much noise while hiking, so the lions are aware of you and can move away; Keep pets on a leash, and young children close; If a lion appears, do not approach it or look it in the eye, but move slowly backward, talking calmly as you do; Raise your arms, spread open a coat, or do something else that make you appear larger than you are; If the lion begins to move toward you, it is probably just curious. Throwing objects should scare if off, but be sure to not bend over to pick up anything as this is seen as an invitation to pounce; If, for some reason, a lion does attack, fight back with everything youve got, said Hampton. There are more stories of people fighting lions off than there are stories of the mountain lion winning the