By CASEY FREEMAN
While Coloradans shares their state with wildlife, it’s best for humans to be a cautious, clean and loud neighbor.
“Everybody loves to see them and they are fascinating,” said Tyler Baskfield, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). “But we want them not to associate humans as a food source.”
A mountain lion attacked seven-year-old boy who was hiking with a group of people Saturday evening. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Department said the boy’s injuries were not life-threatening.
DOW officers were able to find the mountain lion and kill it. The DOW is awaiting the results of the necropsy to see if the cat had any deficiencies or diseases that would cause it to attack a human. Results should be available in a week, according to Baskfield.
Mountain lion attacks are sudden and frightening, but do not happen often and can be prevented, according to the DOW.
“The way family reacted was the proper way,” said Baskfield.
The hikers with the boy scared the mountain lion away by yelling and charging at it. [See info box for more wildlife safety tips.]
“It’s wise to be aware of wildlife and take precautions,” said Baskfield.
The mountain lion was an 80-pound female that was only 1 to 2 years old and could have been “newly emancipated from its mother or orphaned” and could have had “poor hunting skills,” according to Wendy Keefover-Ring, the director of the Carnivore Protection Program with Sinapu – a Boulder-based carnivore protection group.
Most mountain lion attacks happen to children under 16 years old, but “are incredibly rare,” said Keefover-Ring, who mentioned that about 40 people a year are struck by lightning, but only about one person every decade is killed by a mountain lion.
DOW estimates there are 5,000 mountain lions in the state of Colorado, but no numbers are available for Boulder County.
“I don’t think we need to have that severe of a reaction,” said Baskfield, who mentioned mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, and have only been recorded twice since 1890.
About this time is also when Colorado’s 8,000 to 12,000 bears start coming out of hibernation. The awakened bears, along with more people, are heading into the mountains to hike, fish and camp may cause more wildlife encounters, according Baskfield.
Baskfield said people living around bear habitat should not leave dog food, bird feeders, garbage or grills out where bears can get them. He also mentioned hikers and campers should be aware of the wildlife, make noise, watch children and keep pets on leashes. [See info box for more safety tips]
“These kinds of simple preventative measures will keep wildlife and people safe,” said Baskfield.
The CU Wildlife Division has been passing out informational flyers for both mountain lions and bears every weekend. The group hopes the flyers will prevent both wildlife and humans from being hurt or killed.
Bears usually look for grasses, foliage and other edible vegetation when they first wake up, according to the DOW.
Colorado allows problem bears “two strikes,” or two serious encounters, with humans. After the second strike, the bear is killed.
The DOW’s motto is “A fed bear is a dead bear,” and reminds people to keep food away from bears.
“If they come around, scare them away,” said Keefover-Ring. “Make sure our houses are not happy places for them.”
Contact Casey Freeman on this story at (303) 443-6272 ext. 147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.