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Officers verify pets killed by mountain lion assaults in Kremmling, Grand Lake

A mountain lion sprints throughout the Lechmans’ property on Jan. 16, 2023 after killing one of many household’s cats. A spear of lion assaults has led to the demise of pets throughout Grand County.
Sami Lechman/Courtesy picture

A rash of current mountain lion assaults have resulted within the deaths of at the very least one canine and 15 cats, and Grand County residents stay on edge as a result of lions are nonetheless on this space.

The primary assaults on cats started in Kremmling on the residence of Sami and Shawn Lechman through the week of Jan. 15.

On Jan. 19., a mountain lion killed Rob and Sara Gonzales’ canine. Then a separate lion attacked a canine on Jan. 23. The canine survived the Jan. 23 assault. Each assaults on canine occurred in Grand Lake.

Assaults on cats

“I had 15 cats — now I’ve none,” mentioned Kremmling resident Sami Lechman.

The Lechman household lives on a ranch 5 miles from Previous Park, in a secluded space that has lengthy been residence to lions. Whereas the household has beforehand coexisted peacefully with the animals, all the pieces modified this month.

“The lion got here to the appropriate home as a result of I’m the loopy cat girl. I’ve had a few of these cats for 13 years,” Lechman mentioned. “The barn cats—you simply feed them, they management the rodent inhabitants. They have been half mountain lion themselves. …Three of the cats have been mild, well-loved cats.”

Lechman suspects just one lion is liable for killing all her cats, because it wears a monitoring collar. Lechman state Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers collared the cat in Previous Park as a result of it was searching feral cats roughly every week earlier than it started concentrating on her residence.

“All I have been discovering is bits and items of cats,” she mentioned. “It got here in broad daylight, and it was not afraid of me in any respect. … I watched it eat one in all my cats.”

She added she worries for neighbors with young children, and her household’s different livestock, together with chickens and goats. After seeing the lions, she says her canine are too afraid to go away the home.

“They’re scary as a result of they’re so sneaky,” Lechman mentioned. “They’ve mentioned for years and years right here that you do not see them, however they see you.”

She has lived in Kremmling for 45 years, however that is her first time recognizing a mountain lion. To date, her neighbors have been protected from the lion, “however I guess it’s headed someplace subsequent as a result of I am out of cats,” she mentioned.

Assaults on canine

In Grand Lake, residents have reported recognizing three mountain lions roaming for weeks, although the variety of lions hasn’t been confirmed by Parks and Wildlife officers. Mountain lion sightings in Grand Lake aren’t uncommon, however residents say these lions have not behaved in a typical method.

Sara Gonzales was strolling her canine, Pink, on County Street 461 when one of many lions ambushed the canine and killed him.

“This was a 65-pound, extremely wholesome, very robust canine taken unexpectedly,” mentioned Rob Gonzales, Sara’s husband. “This was an alpha male canine.”

In accordance with Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachael Gonzales, Rob Gonzales got here to the scene of the assault and shot and killed the lion.

“Regardless that the spouse was making noise, (the lion) was simply too shut for human well being and security,” mentioned Rachael Gonzales, who’s unrelated to Rob and Sara.

Rob and Sara Gonzales emphasised that Pink was not wandering on his personal through the stroll, and Sara was lower than 10 ft away when the lion approached.

“This occurred at midday, proper in the midst of the day,” Rob Gonzales mentioned.

This is not a typical time for lions to hunt. About three hours after the assault, Rob Gonzales mentioned, a distinct lion was noticed within the space on a safety digicam. Rob and Sara mentioned they hadn’t ever seen a mountain lion within the wild till this incident.

Grand County Deputy Sheriff Sean Curran and Parks and Wildlife space wildlife supervisor Jeromy Huntington responded to the scene and eliminated the useless lion, which was a feminine between 6 and seven years outdated.

Rob Gonzales added that he and Sara need to thank Curran and Huntington for his or her work responding to the scene. Rob inspired residents to be proactive to forestall future assaults, since lions should still be prowling the realm.

“Each time you see a mountain lion, please name and report it to (Parks and Wildlife) as a result of they should understand how a lot mountain lion exercise is presently happening in our neighborhood,” he mentioned. “The extra those that report it, the extra strain on the authorities to do one thing about it.”

For the reason that assault on the canine, Grand Lake residents have continued to see lions. Brianna Lund made a Fb publish on the Grand County Gross sales and Neighborhood web page that her mom, Cathy Lund, had her canine attacked by a lion close to Columbine Lake on Jan. 23. The small, aged canine ​​survived and is recovering from surgical procedure on the veterinarian’s workplace.

As a result of the lion that attacked Lund’s canine was in shut proximity to her whereas she and her canine have been of their driveway, Parks and Wildlife deemed the lion a risk to human well being and security. In accordance with Rachael Gonzales, the lion was euthanized by Parks and Wildlife officers the identical day.

Jeromy Huntington, space wildlife supervisor for Parks and Wildlife, left, and Grand County Deputy Sheriff Sean Curran take away the lion that killed Rob and Sara Gonzales’s canine, Pink, in Grand Lake on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.
Sara Gonzales/Courtesy picture

Controlling the mountain lion inhabitants

Can folks kill lions they deem a risk? It relies upon. Within the Gonzales’ case, the lion was extraordinarily near Sara and thus a threat to her de ella, so it may very well be killed legally. Nonetheless, it’s unlawful to kill lions solely as a result of they could be concentrating on pets. This legislation helps protect the species.

In accordance with a state statute guiding Parks and Wildlife, a lion can solely be killed if it targets livestock, actual property resembling automobiles or is a threat to human life. Pets are thought-about private property.

Harmful lions will be relocated, however Parks and Wildlife officers sometimes hesitate to take action, as a result of one other lion can enter the territory to take its place, and the relocated lion is liable to wreak havoc elsewhere. It’s authorized to hunt lions in Colorado with an energetic license and training certificates issued by Parks and Wildlife.

Searching retains the inhabitants in test and is a key a part of Parks and Wildlife’s West Slope Lion Administration Plan. Within the 2021-22 searching season, 486 lion tags have been stuffed, and a pair of,493 hunters pulled tags.

In Grand County and surrounding counties, resembling Summit and Jackson, all tags have been stuffed within the 2021-22 season, with 41 lions harvested. Nonetheless, the game is dwindling in some locations. In Nederland, the place a spade of assaults led to the demise of 15 canine In December, no lion tags have been stuffed since 2005.

Mountain lion statistics

Together with grizzly bears and wolves, mountain lions are apex predators. They hunt utilizing stealth to ambush their prey, sometimes from behind, utilizing their highly effective jaws to interrupt the prey’s neck.

Mountain lions can dash as much as 50 mph and leap as much as 15 ft. Males sometimes weigh 140-170 kilos, and females weigh 80-100 kilos. They develop as much as 8 ft lengthy (together with the tail) and stand 2-3 ft tall on the shoulder. By comparability, an grownup male German Shepherd is about 70-90 kilos and about 2 ft tall.

Parks and Wildlife officers estimate there are between 3,000-7,000 lions in Colorado, though the precise inhabitants in Grand County is unknown.

“Clearly, there are mountain lions up there. Quite a lot of occasions they’re probably not seen. They seem to be a very elusive animal,” Rachael Gonzales mentioned. “The (Kremmling) space is the winter vary for elk and deer, which is their pure meals supply.”

She added that Parks and Wildlife officers are presently main a decadelong examine on mountain lion inhabitants density in Grand and Gunnison counties, which started in 2021.

Mountain lion sightings in Colorado have been on the rise Since 2020, however officers say this is not essentially as a result of their populations are exploding.

“It is not like out of the blue there are much more cats; it is simply that we’re seeing them much more typically,” mentioned John Livingston, public info officer for the Durango space, in a 2021 interview with The Denver Put up. “Now we have methods of seeing them that we did not prior to now. In case your doorbell (digicam) picks up a mountain lion strolling by way of your entrance yard because it stalks a pack of mule deer in the midst of the evening, you’d by no means have seen it earlier than. Now you get an alert in your telephone and also you see that animal.”

mountain lion security

Rachael Gonzales defined that one of the best tactic to remain protected in mountain lion territory is to verify lions keep frightened of people.

“The aim is to make the mountain lion as uncomfortable as you probably can, so it is aware of it is not welcome there,” she mentioned.

She added that pet house owners needs to be cautious letting their animals outdoors, particularly throughout daybreak and nightfall, when mountain lions sometimes hunt.

“With cats, it is not really helpful to go away them out at evening, however with canine generally you do not have that possibility,” she mentioned.

She advises pet house owners to show porch lights on and off, scan the realm (flashlights can choose up lions’ reflective eyes), and make a number of noise to scare any lions off earlier than letting pets out at darkish.

“If you happen to’re capable of, keep together with your animal,” she mentioned. “Particularly in wintertime, we do not need to stand outdoors, however once more, having that presence and making them really feel unwelcome is the important thing if you happen to stay in mountain lion habitat.”

One other tactic is to go away a radio on taking part in loudly, since lions are spooked by human voices. Lastly, Rachael states that individuals ought to by no means feed wildlife (which is unlawful) or depart pet meals out—a deer or raccoon searching for a human-provided meal will quickly appeal to a lion on the lookout for its personal meal.

She additionally pressured the significance of teaching youngsters about mountain lion security.

“In the event that they see a mountain lion, they (ought to) yell on the high of their lungs, ‘Go away, mountain lion!’ Younger youngsters do not have deep voices, however get them to be agency as they probably can,” she mentioned.

She added yelling the phrases “mountain lion” can assist alert folks across the space that the predators are shut.

dwelling with lions

Rachael acknowledged that lion assaults on pets aren’t unprecedented in Grand County, however not quite common.

“You are inclined to see these (assaults) occur extra within the Boulder space, in populated locations,” she mentioned. “We’re not seeing any extra assaults this 12 months (in Grand) than occurred prior to now.”

Assaults on people are much more uncommon. Since 1990, Parks and Wildlife has recorded 25 assaults on people, with three fatalities. In accordance with Parks and Wildlife, the final assault on a human in Colorado occurred in Loveland in March 2020. In August 2019, a lion attacked a hunter scouting elk in Kremmling, however he succeeded in warding the lion off by throwing rocks and stabbing it with a pocketknife.

Mountain lions are intrinsically scared of people, who’re apex predators in their very own proper and do hunt them. The query is whether or not lions within the space have maintained this concern. Latest assaults and frequent sightings counsel they could now not really feel threatened by people they beforehand coexisted with.

Within the meantime, officers are encouraging Grand County guests and residents to contact Parks and Wildlife for each lion sighting, maintain pets shut always, and observe hazing behaviors (resembling yelling and flashing lights) to assist maintain their pets, and themselves, protected.

“We would like wildlife to at all times stay wild, however well being and human security is our first precedence,” Rachael Gonzales mentioned.

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