So there you have it. Residents of Edwards, Colo., just received a warning from (CPW) officials to be on high alert as a group of eight to 10 mountain lions is “roaming neighborhoods in the community.” The warning came after CPW acknowledged it has received increasing reports of eyewitness sightings, suspicious animal carcasses, and encounters and attacks on neighborhood dogs. Officials believe there are two female lions each traveling with a litter of three to four juvenile lions that are “nearly full grown, as large, or possibly larger, than their mother.” You know it’s serious when a local officials are encouraging a community to beware of an entire pride.
In an online statement on Thursday, CPW Northwest Regional Manager J.T. Romatzke said, “This is a troubling situation and we are very concerned for the safety and welfare of the people in this area. We ask everyone to take this warning seriously.”
CPW District Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita added, “We urge residents to be extremely cautious because lions are large, powerful predators and can be very dangerous if they've lost their natural fear of people. We are monitoring the situation very closely.”
As for the lions losing their fear of people, Yamashita believes the adult female lions are teaching their young to hunt within a human populated area. “Considering we are talking about nearly full-grown lions, this is not a sustainable situation,” he said. “We will take the appropriate management action as necessary, but what the action will be remains to be seen and will be based on our assessment of public risk and the lion's behavior going forward.” Reading in between the lines, this likely means officials will have to kill some or all of these cats where, by establishing a larger hunting quota, they could have avoided the circumstances altogether. For now, the CPW asks that those who see a mountain lion in a residential area contact officials immediately and keep a safe distance.
In news accounts out of Edwards, CPW estimates there are 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions roaming statewide, adding, “We have more lions than ever before” in some areas. With this many lion encounters, I wouldn’t be surprised if this estimate is low.
Food for Thought: Why Predator and Prey Species Alike Must Be Managed
Over the past few weeks while I was away attending trade shows, a good friend, rancher and outfitter I’ve known since high school attended a public meeting on Colorado’s Western Slope put on by the CPW. The purpose was to discuss the state’s declining deer and elk populations. He said many of the people in the room pointed to issues with predators. Each time, the folks from CPW said they were not convinced predators were the problem. When CPW brought up the fact the elk in our area simply were having a much lower calf survival rate than the area around Craig, Colo., for example, my friend’s hand shot up. He said it was easy to figure out why. Craig’s elk numbers were solid as there are numerous sheep ranchers there who practice heavy predator control. If a lion gets into their sheep, the state sends a government hunter to take it out. In our area, there are no sheep ranchers and the lion quota is so low that we can’t begin to control the population. Just as with every other person who brought up predators, the state folks told him they did not have data to support that theory.
Like me, my rancher buddy has spent his whole life in the field. Like many other avid Colorado outdoorsmen, we can see the consequences when predators in some areas are not managed and take a toll on our deer and elk.
Having just returned from the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week, speakers representing the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife both shared valuable information during the evening banquets. They specifically shared some statistics on how their aggressive predator control over the past few years has had a positive impact on their deer and elk populations. Could it be that Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not doing enough to manage its predators?
About the Author: NRA Life member, award-winning outdoor TV host and recreational real estate associate broker Phil Phillips of Hayden Outdoors has hunted five continents, taking more than 200 big-game animals and nearly 60 species worldwide. Prior to hosting hunting programs, he started Colorado's first Ranching for Wildlife Program for antelope, which he ran for 15 years. Working alongside professional land managers to restore and protect habitat, Phil went on to guide clients to 500-plus big-game animals that have qualified for the record book. In 1992 Safari Club International honored him as the North American Bowhunting Outfitter of the Year. Phillips writes regularly about predator issues, including those involving mountain lions, from Colorado to Arizona and Washington State. You can mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.