Mountain Lions in the Rockies

The Department of Wildlife, DOW, has a long history of successful game management in the State of Colorado. One of the species long protected from total extinction is the cougar or mountain lion. Many different sub-species of these occur across the United States but the largest numbers live in the West.

I have personally seen about two cougars a year just fishing and riding in the truck to lakes and events and being in that the animals are highly secretive and sensitive to humans, that's pretty remarkable.  

Last fall, two fishermen had decided to spend the day on Alder Creek about 2 miles from town. They arrived and split up, one going upstream and the other down. Alder Creek is about 5 feet wide at the widest point and a great little stream for Brookies and Browns.  

They hadn't been apart long when one of them was confronted by a cougar. The cat displayed very aggressive behavior and the fisherman ended up fending the cougar off with his fly rod. It became quite a tussle and the man feared for his life. His buddy finally came up the river looking for him and found the confrontation in the creek bottom. They soon both became engaged in a fight with the cat and one man broke his rod trying to get the cougar to leave.

There were many tense moments but finally the mountain lion broke off contact and they escaped to their truck.  

We have heard that a house close by to this location feeds the mountain lions and they have them in their yard regularly. While they might think this is nifty and love to see them, they are setting others up for an attack like the one just described. When you feed a wild animal you desensitize it to its normal fear of humans thereby creating a hazard to others who may come in contact with the animal later.  

There are precautions that you can and should take anytime you are in the forests. Animals often are just looking for food or protecting territory or their young but still pose a danger nonetheless.  Bear spray sold commercially is always a good thing to carry when you venture off the road. I have never used it personally, but it is supposed to deter an attack and so is recommended for any day pack. I have heard that wasp spray will also work but there is no scientific evidence to back that up. For those of you who are trained in the safe handling of a firearm, a pistol in a good holster or back pack also is good insurance against attacks by wild animals. Most of the time, a shot in the air is all that is needed to send a message to the animal that you are not a good food source.

Last year on our way out from Regan Lake, a pit bull dog came running up the trail and attacked my little Yorkie. I drew my weapon and fired a warning shot over the dogs back and he immediately ran off back the way he came. Some minutes later a truckload of guys came along with that dog. They had been letting him run loose ahead of them on the road. I do not understand people not obeying the law as to leashes in the forest and especially with dangerous breeds. We could have been a family with small children and no way to protect them. There is no amount of money or punishment after the fact that can make up for foolishness like that.  

Remember to carry some form of deterrent in the woods, be confident in how it is used and you might end up saving someone's life other than your own too. Be safe out there. kevin