Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding the public to supervise pets and learn about living with mountain lions after a lion killed a 10-pound dog in Vail at approximately 6:45 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21. The dog's owner had let her pet into the back patio of the home and when she returned for it a few minutes later, she was unable to locate the dog.
Vail Police officers responded and during the search for the missing dog, they discovered a mountain lion under the deck of the home next door and immediately called Colorado Parks and Wildlife for assistance. Eagle County Animal Control found the remains of the missing dog under the deck where the mountain lion was initially spotted.
Police officers lost sight of the mountain lion after it ran into the residential area, prompting an advisory notice to surrounding residents alerting them to bring pets inside.
"It's an unfortunate situation," said District Wildlife Officer Bill Andree. "The pet's owner did nothing wrong. The lion just happened to be in the area at the same time she let her dog out."
At approximately 8 a.m. officials received a report from a homeowner that had seen the mountain lion near Gore Creek, not far from where the dog was attacked. CPW officers investigating the incident concluded that based on the behavior of the mountain lion, it is considered a threat to human health and safety.
"Anytime a lion hunts and finds cover in a residential area, then continues to remain in the area, that is a cause for concern," said Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will. "In cases like this, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action to protect human health and safety."
CPW officers reported that after a thorough search of the area, they were unable to locate the mountain lion. They will continue to monitor the situation and ask residents to call CPW immediately if they see a lion in their neighborhood.
Will reminds people that live in lion country to remember to avoid feeding wildlife, supervise pets and children and follow the recommendations provided by CPW. He adds that mountain lions are opportunistic predators and will make a quick meal of pets and livestock.
"Lions don't hunt people, they are looking for four-legged prey,' said Will. "But if a person were to surprise a lion, or accidentally corner it, the lion could react in a way that causes severe injuries. We don't take chances in a situation like this."
Although attacks on humans are very rare, people should not take mountain lions for granted. If you live in lion country, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don't feed any wildlife. It attracts lion prey like racoons and deer. Predators follow prey.
- Avoid planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer prefer to eat. It might encourage wildlife to come onto your property.
- Make noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active—dusk to dawn.
- Install outside lighting in areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one were present.
- Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
- Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding places for lions, especially around children's play areas. Make it difficult for lions to approach unseen.
- Keep your pet under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. If you leave your pet outside, keep it in a kennel with a secure top.
- Don't feed pets outside; this can attract raccoons and other animals that are eaten by lions. Store all garbage securely.
- Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close doors to all outbuildings since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.
- 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 can ward off a lion. Make sure children are close to you and within your sight at all times. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
- Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly yet firmly to it. Move slowly.
- Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Do not turn and run! 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 are 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. Convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
- Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions can be driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands successfully. Remain standing or try to get back up!
- Encourage your neighbors to follow these simple precautions. Prevention is far better than a possible lion confrontation.
For more information about Living with Wildlife, go to cpw.state.co.us.
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.