Boulder, CO. Mountain lions are the perfect predator. Equipped with powerful claws and jaws, they are quite capable of killing prey much larger than themselves—even an adult elk. Lion stalk and ambush their prey—a technique that is far more efficient and effective than coursing (that is, chasing prey over long distance) as wolves do. Typically, mountain lions prey on deer, but will consume other wildlife or even domestic livestock or pets.
“With shrinking habitats and an increased human population in Boulder County, we need to expand people’s knowledge and change behaviors if large carnivores such as lions and bears are to persist,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, Director of Sinapu’s Carnivore Protection Program.
“I usually remain silent when the Colorado Division of Wildlife has to kill a mountain lion or bear for human safety, but in this instance, I think their approach is wrong. If one lives in lion country and raises livestock, whether for profit or as a hobby, then that person must take responsibility for protecting those animals and use good husbandry practices,” stated Keefover-Ring.
“The DOW should remove the carcass of the miniature horse (or deer) as it usually does in these kinds of instances, followed by a non-lethal deterrent, and not presume the animal has any ill intent to harm a human,” declared Keefover-Ring.
“Leaving vulnerable livestock in a pasture overnight makes no sense, she added. “Animals should be put into a barn or placed behind a barricade. The lion should not have to pay for the livestock grower’s mistake with his/her life.”
The DOW pays compensation to people who have experienced personal property damage by mountain lions and bears. Thus, this may be why they are quick to seek to kill this particular lion.
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Background information: Natural History & Common Sense Precautions
Mountain lions (Puma concolor), also known as puma and cougar, are the second largest cat in North America, behind jaguars. Males weigh between 110 and 180 pounds and are 6 to 8 feet long—from nose to tip of tail, while females weigh between 80 to 130 pounds and stretch from 5 to 7 feet. Lions’ tails are about one-third of their body length, unlike bobcats or lynx, which have short tails.
Mountain lions are crepuscular which means they are usually active at dawn and dusk—the time when they are on the hunt. This is the time when people need to exercise the most precaution for themselves, their pets, and livestock.
Mountain lions occur in low densities because their mobile food supply—usually deer—are patchily distributed across arid landscapes. Lions stalk and ambush their quarry. They kill by crushing or breaking the neck using their claws and jaws. Lions cache carcasses (with tree litter, grass, or snow) so that scavengers (e.g., coyotes or magpies) cannot easily detect a free meal.
Mountain lions maintain territories called home ranges. If the occupant of a home range is removed or killed, the vacancy will likely attract a young, dispersing lion. Younger animals are more likely to be implicated in negative encounters with humans, pets, and livestock.
Although females’ home ranges may overlap, males’ do not. The size of a home range is dependent upon food density, landscape features, and the seasons. On average, a male’s territory is 100 square miles, a female’s, 30.
Males generally do not tolerate other cats. Strife between lions, usually because of territorial conflicts, contributes to mortalities.
Large carnivores in ecosystems contribute to the richness and complexity of animal life, and indirectly to ecosystem function itself. Mountain lions modulate prey populations. In one recent study where lions were absent, biologists argue that a desert riparian ecosystem collapsed because of overgrazing by deer. As a result, the numbers of plants and animals in that ecosystem declined. In an adjacent area, where lions were present, the stream was in better health, and the numbers of plant and animal species were far greater.
Females and Kittens
Females become sexually mature at about 24 months. On average, they give birth to 3 kittens every other year. Most females produce kittens in the summer and fall months when food is plentiful, although they can have their kittens year round. As their sole provider, the females teach their kittens survival skills for up to two years.
Independent from their mothers between 10 and 24 months, sub-adult lions attempt to stake out their own home ranges. While searching for a territory, young lions often sustain mortalities.
Risk of a Mountain Lion Attack is Low!
One statistician determined that the risk factor of being attacked by lion is approximately equal to getting struck by lightning and winning the lottery.
According to a 2005 Colorado Division of Wildlife survey, Coloradoans generally do not fear mountain lions. Common sense precautions can prevent negative encounters.
Mountain lions typically avoid people. Between 1890 and 2006, only 17 fatalities and >100 non-fatalities occurred. In Colorado, two people have been killed by lions since 1890.
Common Sense Tips in Lion Country
Mountain lions usually avoid people. To prevent conflicts, trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers should run/ride with others. Solitary individuals, especially youths and children, are the most vulnerable. Adults should supervise children’s outside play. While hiking, hold young children by the hand or have them walk between two adults.
Avoid outside activity at dawn or dusk, the time when most lions are most mobile because their primary prey, deer, are about.
Carry a deterrent. A walking stick or pepper spray can be helpful.
Leash or confine pets. Unleashed and running pets may trigger a predator response from lions or other predators. At night, secure pets either indoors or in kennels with secure tops. Cats should always be kept indoors.
Eliminate hiding places. Mountain lions ambush their prey so removing dense vegetation or large rocks around your home reduces the chance of attack.
Fences. Use high fences around children’s play areas and to protect domestic livestock. For livestock, at a minimum, install a 6’ fence with an underground apron of galvanized steel to keep out coyotes. For protection against mountain lions, Steven Torres, author of Mountain Lion Alert, recommends a 10’ fence.
Do not attract deer or other prey species to your home. Lions follow their prey. To avoid attracting prey species into your yard, plant native foliage. Deer-proof fences of 6-8 feet high will deter deer and mountain lions.
Install lighting in areas where people and pets move at dark.
If you encounter a lion, give it a chance to move away. In most human-lion meetings, the mountain lion will retreat.
If approached by a mountain lion, watch the lion (focus on his feet), yell, show your teeth, move backwards slowly, throw rocks or sticks (do not bend down or crouch), raise your arms over head to appear large. If you are wearing a jacket raise the corners over your head to appear even larger. Do not turn your back, never run away.
If attacked. Be aggressive and fight back. Do not give up. Use cameras, binoculars, walking stick or whatever is at hand.
Wendy Keefover-Ring | Sinapu | 303.447.8655, Ext. 1#
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