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Mountain lion spotted near Aspen

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” A local man spotted a mountain lion along McLain Flats Road on Tuesday, confirming the suspicions of area wildlife and trails experts that one of the big cats has been roaming around Aspen in recent weeks.

Don Lemos, a local ski pro, told city trails official John Armstrong of the county trails department that he was driving down the hill from McLain Flats toward Stein Park, when a “tawny cat with a black-tipped tail” whisked across the road in front of Lemos’ car.

The cat was heading downhill, and dived under the guardrail on the river side of the road, according to Lemos, who said the sighting happened at about 8:20 a.m. and remarked, “It looked like somebody doing the limbo” as it “slithered under the guardrail.”



Lemos said that while he was not certain at first what he saw, as soon as he got to work he did some quick research on the Internet and concluded it was a mountain lion.

Later in the day, Lemos was chatting with an Aspen police officer about a different matter when he mentioned he had seen the lion. The officer called Armstrong, who then called Lemos.




Armstrong, citing Lemos’ description, said it was “not a big cat, but definitely larger than a bobcat or a lynx or anything like that.”

He also said he considered Lemos “a credible eyewitness” and believes Lemos did, in fact, see a mountain lion.

The sighting anecdotally validates the opinions of wildlife experts and residents that one of the big cats has come down from the upper reaches of the hills ringing Aspen, lower in elevation and closer to town than is typical for a mountain lion.

Some experts have said the reason the cat is working the territory so close to town is the extra heavy snowfall that has blanketed the high country this winter and forced large game animals down from the heights. Lions, experts agree, will follow deer and elk as they move around, because the large ungulates are the big cats’ main food source.

Wildlife experts have gone to some lengths to point out that mountain lions are commonly found throughout the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies, and that they normally are not interested in harming humans.

But, said Armstrong, the sighting is “a good heads-up to people to not be paranoid, but to be prudent,” because attacks on young children, adults and pets have occurred.

In particular, Armstrong said, people need to keep their dogs and other pets either inside or on a leash when out for a walk. This is true particularly on the Rio Grande Trail, where it is illegal to walk an unleashed dog out of concern that the canines might harass wildlife.

“In this case, their dog, which is usually the predator, could become the prey,” he remarked dryly.

Armstrong said area residents also should keep young children close while out walking and remain alert when kids are playing outside near the house.

jcolson@aspentimes.com

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