At least two more cats have been spotted near Dillon Reservoir, where Silverthorne police officers encountered three lions last week.
By NICOLE FORMOSA
Summit Daily News
SILVERTHORNE – At least two more mountain lions have been sighted in areas around the Dillon Reservoir in the past week, according Randy Hampton, spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW).
One cat was spotted near the Old Dillon Reservoir off the Dillon Dam Road and the second was on the opposite side of the reservoir, on the peninsula between the Snake River inlet and the marina.
The latest reports are in addition to three cats that were spotted by Silverthorne police officers last Wednesday evening near the Blue River softball fields below the Dillon Dam.
Hampton said it’s possible there have been two or three additional sightings in the area, but is only comfortable to say two were actually mountain lions, not foxes or other wildlife.
The sightings of the generally elusive creatures number “a little more than usual” for this area, but because Summit County is mountain lion habit, the reports are not “extraordinarily unusual,” Hampton said.
Wendy Keefover-Ring, director of the carnivore recovery program for Sinapu, a grassroots organization that aims to protect native carnivores, postulates that the sightings are all the same lions because the animals are territorial in their home range.
“They’re very unsocial,” Keefover-Ring said.
This time of year is prime feeding time for the cats because deer and elk are in calving season and the lions are likely just following their prey. It’s rare for the cats to spend more than a couple days in one area because they have large roaming zones, Hampton said.
It’s likely that the cats have found a convenient, temporary food source in the area and will stick around until the summertime crowds pick up.
“They do not like human contact. There’s not much mountain lions are afraid of and, for the most part, humans are on that list,” he said.
For that reason, there’s no need to panic or stay indoors, though Hampton recommends that people keep their dogs on a leash, even if they think they are in an area where mountain lions wouldn’t be roaming.
Human attacks and fatalities are rare – there have been fewer than a dozen fatalities stemming from mountain lion attacks in the last 100 years, according to the CDOW website.
“It we get a situation where human safety is seriously endangered, if we get a situation when a cat does attack, we will take action,” he said.
Several weeks ago, wildlife officers put down a cat that had been hanging around in a subdivision in Colorado Springs. The decision was made after numerous attempts to haze the lion and shoot it with rubber bullets were unsuccessful, Hampton said.
Keefover-Ring advises people to recreate in pairs, carry a deterrent such as an airhorn or a stick when out on hikes, bike rides or horseback rides.
Also, children under 16 should never be out on trails without an adult because they’re small and often move quickly, which can be similar to the movements of mountain lions’ prey.
“If we’re going to have a functioning ecosystem, we have to have large carnivores,” she said. “We have to use common sense when we live or recreate in lion country.”
What to do if you see a mountain lion
• Don’t run away! Running triggers lions’ prey instinct. Stay calm, talk firmly, move slowly and face the lion.
• Appear as large as possible. Raise your arms, open your jacket to increase your width or hold your jacket over your head.
• If you are approached by the cat, throw stones, sticks, rocks, anything in its direction, BUT don’t crouch down to pick up items to throw because that makes you appear smaller.
• If you are attacked, fight back. Give it anything and everything you’ve got. “You can fight off a mountain lion,” said Randy Hampton, spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
To report mountain lion sightings, call the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Hot Sulphur Springs office at (970) 725-6200. If it is an emergency, call 911.
For more information on mountain lions or the Colorado Division of Wildlife, visit http://www.wildlife.state.co.us.
Source: Randy Hampton, CDOW
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at firstname.lastname@example.org