Talk at environmental center will focus on mountain lions

Mary Jean Porter

The cat with many names will be the subject of a program at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mountain Park Environmental Center in Beulah.

Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu in Boulder will talk about mountain lions in the West. The big cats commonly are known as pumas, cougars or panthers and they evoke strong emotions – negative or positive – in many people.

Mountain lions are shy and unsocial by nature and prefer rugged terrain that is suitable for ambushing their large prey such as mule deer and elk. They require large habitats because they eat only meat and their food supply is dispersed over long distances. According to Sinapu, a Boulder-based carnivore-protection group, a male lion requires at least 100 square miles of habitat in the arid West.

A female mountain lion spends about 70 percent of her lifetime raising young, which can be born at any time of year but usually in the summer or fall. Kittens are totally dependent on their mothers for the first nine months and typically spend between 11 and 16 months learning survival skills from their mothers.

Mountain lions are subjected to what Sinapu characterizes as liberal hunting practices in most western states, and lion deaths from sport hunters increased about four-fold from the early 1980s to the early part of this century in 10 western states, according to the organization. Recreation, livestock protection, ungulate augmentation and human safety are reasons cited for the hunting policies.

Common-sense precautions such as traveling in groups while engaging in recreation in lion country can eliminate potential human-lion conflicts. Such precautions and the skills to successfully coexist with the large native carnivores will be discussed at the Thursday program. The natural history of mountain lions and how Colorado and other western states manage their lion populations also will be covered.

More information about Sinapu is available on the Web at http://www.sinapu.org . Its name is the Ute word for wolves, and its mission is the restoration and protection of native carnivores and their wild habitat in the Southern Rockies and adjoining high plains and deserts.

The Mountain Park Environmental Center is located in Pueblo Mountain Park in Beulah. For more information, call 485-4444.

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