Caution urged for Rocky Mountain foothills residents.
Recent news has reported several mountain lion sightings in Loveland, as well as bobcat sightings in suburban areas around Denver. There are likely more sightings that haven't been reported, as this is a fairly common time for wildcats to make an appearance in the foothills and beyond, and wildlife officials are urging residents to keep a close eye on kids and pets while outdoors.
"Mountain lions are generally calm, quiet, and elusive. They tend to live in remote, primitive country with plentiful deer and adequate cover. Such conditions exist in mountain subdivisions, urban fringes, and open spaces. Recently, the number of mountain lion/human interactions has increased," says Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Interactions are on the rise due to increasing deer and lion numbers and more people moving or recreating in lion habitat.
It is important to note that lion attacks are quite rare, but they can happen. Last winter, an unfortunate runner outside of Fort Collins found that out the hard way. But in that case, and the case in most other attacks, a young lion was involved.
"Lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than a dozen fatalities in North America in more than 100 years. Most of the attacks were by young lions, perhaps forced out to hunt on their own and not yet living in established areas. Young lions may key in on easy prey, like pets and small children," says the CPW.
The agency urges the following precautions to help keep your family, your pets, and wildlife safe.
- 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.
Don't forget that if wild animals, particularly carnivores, become accustomed to humans in any way, they are put at serious risk of relocation or euthanization. It's beyond unfortunate when wildlife has to suffer because of our actions, no matter how well-meaning our intentions are. But, with a few simple precautions, we can co-exist and enjoy the beauty of our wildlife while keeping everyone as safe as possible.
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