Mountain lion reportedly seen in Aspen area | AspenTimes.com

Mountain lion reportedly seen in Aspen area

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has posted a sign on the Marolt Bridge warning people about mountain lions in the area.

Pip Pryor has walked her black Labrador at dusk and dawn for nearly three years. But she recently changed her daily routine after seeing a mountain lion on separate occasions.

"When you see them in the wild, you really think about getting away the best you can without causing them any distress," said Pryor, who lives near Aspen Valley Hospital.

Pryor, whose husband, Richard, is Aspen's police chief, said she spotted the cougar one day last week and also on Monday. The first time was at approximately 5:30 in the evening, and Monday's sighting was at 6:45 in the morning, she said.

Both sightings were near the Aspen Community Garden, which is located in the Marolt Open Space. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, after catching word of the sightings, posted a warning sign on the west side of the Marolt Bridge.

The Marolt Open Space is a popular area for dog walkers and bikers and is a landing spot for paragliders. The 35-acre parcel is located off of Castle Creek Road near Aspen.

Kevin Wright, the district wildlife manager for Parks and Wildlife, said Thursday that mountain lion activity increases this time of year. He said there was also a mountain lion sighting at Koch Lumber Park, which is roughly a half-mile away from the Marolt Open Space. He said it's likely that the same cat was spotted at both locations.

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"We're going to see more lion activity closer to Aspen as winter comes," he said.

Mule deer are commonly seen in the Marolt Open Space area, and Wright said their presence is probably attracting the mountain lion.

"They typically follow the mule deer as they come down lower," he said.

Wright said people who walk their pets need to be cautious.

"Any kind of loose pets not under someone's control could be prey," he said. "If there's an opportunity for them to take a smaller animal, they will."

Pryor said the cat she saw was medium-sized.

"Because I have a dog, that's what was interesting to him," she said.

Bear sightings have been aplenty this fall — Parks and Wildlife so far this year has euthanized 10 of them in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, Wright said — but cougars have little interest in them.

"Cats really aren't going to try and take something that can hurt it back," Wright said. "But a cub by itself, that's a possibility."

Since 1990, there have been two fatal attacks on humans by mountain lions, according to Parks and Wildlife.

As for Pryor, she said she plans to walk her dogs at different times of the day when there's more light.

"I've really been waiting until it gets lighter, and I've been going on the field on the hospital side," she said.

Cat tips

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers following safety precautions for mountain lion encounters.

• When you walk or hike in mountain lion country, go in groups 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.

• Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens.

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

• Stop or back away slowly. 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, protect them by picking them up so they won’t panic and run.

• If the lion behaves aggressively, 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.

• Fight back if a lion attacks you.