By Randi Pierce
More mountain lion sightings have been reported in Archuleta County this year than by the same point in 2020 and 2021, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
According to Southwest Region Public Information Officer John Livingston, 17 sightings had been reported to CPW’s Southwest Region Office as of Tuesday, Aug. 16, up from 10 at the same date in 2020 and 2021.
Livingston notes in an email to The SUN that not everyone calls in their sightings, so the actual number is likely higher.
“Statewide, we have noticed an uptick in people seeing mountain lions,” Livingston wrote. “A lot of this can be attributed to doorbell/security cameras. Critters that move around in the night that used to go unseen are now being picked up by this advance in technology.”
Additionally, Livingston explains, more people are moving into lion habitat with “increased development in our mountain communities.”
He adds, “With the increase we’ve seen in outdoor recreation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are also seeing them on trails.”
But, Livingston indicates, there may be more to it than more people entering mountain lion habitat.
“We do have a presumed increase in lion numbers and expanded range, as well,” he wrote. “Wherever there is an abundance of deer, there will be lions, as that is their primary prey source. This enhances the importance of folks not feeding deer in town, as it could attract a predator such as a lion to the area.”
Livingston explains in the email that, oftentimes, “lions will move along river/creek/canyon corridors where they can slip in and out of a residential area quickly. When a lion does make a kill, it will cache the animal carcass somewhere and return to feed on it.”
He continues, “If someone finds a dead animal on their property, they should call CPW immediately to have it removed from the area immediately surrounding their home.”
Too, if people see a lion, they should report it to their local CPW office, he adds.
CPW offices are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Before or after those hours, CPW suggests contacting the Colorado State Patrol or sheriff’s office and they can contact a CPW wildlife officer.
The CPW Durango office can be reached at (970) 247-0855.
If you encounter a
CPW released the following information in 2021 on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion:
• Go in groups when you walk or hike in mountain lion country, and make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea; it can be used to 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.
• Keep dogs on a leash.
• 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 and firmly to it. Move slowly.
• Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. 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’re 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. What you want to do is 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 have been 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.
Living in lion country
CPW also released the following precautions to take to reduce the risk of problems with mountain lions on or near your property:
• Make lots of noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active — dusk to dawn.
• Install outside lighting. Light 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.
• Planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer often prefer to eat encourages wildlife to come onto your property. Predators follow prey. Don’t feed any wildlife.
• 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.
• Encourage your neighbors to follow these simple precautions. Prevention is far better than a possible lion confrontation.
For more information on living with mountain lions, see https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Education/LivingWithWildlife/LivingWithLions.pdf.
Informational mountain lion videos
In 2021, CPW launched a video series on YouTube about mountain lions. Those videos can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2Z4iX-RWjs&list=PLWGY7bVNQHtVxJxrDuuiLW3CxsOcgxC1K or by searching “Mountain Lions in Colorado” on YouTube.