A series of recent mountain lion attacks has left at least one dog and 15 cats dead, and Grand County residents remain on alert because lions are still in this area. The first attacks on cats began in Kremling, in the home of Sammy and Shawn Lishman during the week of January 15th. On January 19, Rob and Sarah Gonzalez’s dog was killed by a mountain lion, then a dog was attacked by a separate lion. January 23rd, the dog survived the attack of January 23rd. The two dog attacks took place in Grand Lake.
Attacks on cats
“I used to have 15 cats — I don’t have any now,” said Sammy Lishman, a Kremling resident. The Lechman family lives on a farm 5 miles from Old Park, in a secluded area that has long been home to lions. While the family previously coexisted peacefully with the animals, this month everything changed.
“The lion came home right because I’m the crazy cat lady. I’ve had some of these cats for 13 years,” said Lishman. “Barn cats—you just feed them, they control the rodent population. They were part mountain lion… Three of the kittens were so cute and cuddly.”
Lishman suspects that only one lion is responsible for killing all of her cats, because she wears a tracking collar. Lishman stated that Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tied up the cat in Old Park because she had been hunting feral cats about a week before they began targeting her home.
“All I found were little kitten bits,” she said. “He came in broad daylight, and he wasn’t afraid of me at all… I watched him eat one of my cats.”
She added that she worries about neighbors who have young children, and her family’s other livestock, including chickens and goats. After seeing the lions she says her dogs are afraid to leave the house.
“They’re scary, because they’re so sneaky,” Lishman said. “They have said for years and years here that you don’t see them, but they see you.”
She’s been living in Kremmling for 45 years, but this is the first time she’s spotted a mountain lion. So far, her neighbors have been safe from the lion, “but I bet he’s going somewhere after that, because I’m out of cats,” she said.
Attacks on dogs
In Grand Lake, residents have reported spotting three mountain lions roaming around for weeks, though the number of lions has not been confirmed by Parks and Wildlife officials. Mountain lion sightings in Grand Lake are not unusual, but residents say these lions did not behave in a typical manner.
Sarah Gonzalez was walking her dog, Red, on County Route 461 when one of the lions ambushed and killed the dog.
“This was a 65-pound dog, very healthy, very strong, and it took him by surprise,” said Rob Gonzalez, Sarah’s husband. “This was an alpha male dog.”
According to Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachel Gonzalez, Rob Gonzalez came to the scene of the attack and shot and killed the lion.
“Even though the wife was making noises, (the lion) was very close for human health and safety,” said Rachel Gonzalez, who is not related to Rob and Sarah.
Rob and Sarah Gonzalez confirmed that Reed was not wandering alone during the walk, and that Sarah was less than 10 feet away when the lion approached.
“It happened right in the middle of the day,” said Rob Gonzalez.
This is not a typical time for lion hunting. About three hours after the attack, Rob Gonzalez said a different lion was spotted in the area by a surveillance camera. Rob and Sarah said they had never seen a mountain lion in the wild until this incident.
Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Curran and Parks and Wildlife Director Jerome Huntington responded to the scene and removed the dead lion, which was a female between 6 and 7 years old.
Rob Gonzalez added that he and Sarah wanted to thank Curran and Huntington for their work in responding to the scene. Robb encouraged the residents to be proactive to prevent future attacks, since at least two lions may still be roaming the area.
“Every time you see a mountain lion, please call and report it to (Parks and Wildlife), because they need to know how much mountain lion activity is currently going on in our area,” he said. “The more people are reporting this, the more pressure will be placed on the authorities to do something about it.”
Since the attack on the dog, residents of Grand Lake have continued to see lions. Brianna Lund posted a Facebook post on the Grand County Sales and Community page reporting that her mother, Kathy Lund, had her dog attacked by a lion near Columbine Lake on January 23. The little dog survived the attack and is recovering from surgery in the hospital. The vet’s office.
Control a mountain lion
Can people kill lions they see as a threat? It depends. In the Gonzalez case, the lion was very close to Sarah and therefore a danger to her, so she could be killed legally. However, it is illegal to kill lions solely because they may target domestic animals. This law helps preserve the species.
according to state law Parks and Wildlife Guidance A lion can only be killed if it is targeting livestock or real property such as vehicles or poses a threat to human life. Pets are considered personal property.
Dangerous lions can be moved, but park and wildlife officials are usually reluctant To do this, because another lion could enter the area to take his place, and the lion that was relocated could wreak havoc elsewhere. It is legal to hunt lions in Colorado for hunters who hold an active license and educational certificate issued by Parks and Wildlife.
Hunting keeps populations in check and is an essential part of Parks and Wildlife’s Western Slope Lion Management Plan. In the 2021-22 hunting season, 486 lion cards have been filled, and 2,493 hunters have drawn cards. In Grand County and surrounding counties, such as Summit and Jackson, all signs are filled In the 2021-22 season, he scored 41 lions. However, the sport is waning in places. In the Netherlands, where a series of attacks left 15 dogs dead In December, Leo’s cards have not been filled since 2005.
Mountain lion stats
Along with bears and wolves, mountain lions are considered predators. They hunt using stealth to ambush their prey, usually from behind, using their powerful jaws to snap the prey’s neck. They can run at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and jump up to 15 feet. Males typically weigh 140-170 lbs, and females 80-100 lbs. They grow up to 8 feet long (including the tail) and stand 2-3 feet tall at the shoulder. By comparison, an adult German Shepherd is around 70-90 pounds and about 2 feet long.
Parks and Wildlife officials estimate that there are between 3,000-7,000 lions in Colorado, though the exact population in Grand County is unknown.
“Obviously, there are mountain lions out there. Not often are they really seen. They are a very elusive animal,” said Rachel Gonzalez. “The (Kremmling) area is the wintering area for elk and deer, and it’s their natural food source.”
She added that park and wildlife officials are currently leading a decade-long study on the population density of mountain lions in Grand and Gunnison counties, which began in 2021.
Mountain lion sightings in Colorado have been on the rise since 2020, but officials say that’s not necessarily because their numbers have exploded.
“It’s not like there are suddenly more cats, it’s just that we see them a lot more often,” Durango-area public information officer John Livingston said in a 2021 interview with The Denver Post.. “We have ways to see them that didn’t exist in the past. If your doorbell (camera) caught a mountain lion walking into your front yard chasing a pack of deer in the middle of the night, you’d never have seen it before. Now you get an alert on your phone and you see that animal.” .
Mountain lion safety
Rachel Gonzalez explained that the best tactic for staying safe in mountain lion territory is to make sure the lions remain fearful of humans.
“The goal is to make the mountain lion as uncomfortable as possible, so she knows he’s not welcome there,” she said.
She added that pet owners should be careful when leaving their animals outside, especially during dawn and dusk, when mountain lions usually hunt.
“With cats, it’s not advisable to leave them outside at night, but with dogs sometimes you don’t have that option,” she said.
She advises pet owners to turn porch lights on and off, survey the area (light bulbs can catch lions’ reflective eyes), and make plenty of noise to scare away any lions before pets are left in the dark.
She said, “If you are able, stay with your animal.” “Especially in the winter, we don’t want to stand outside, but again, having that presence and making them feel unwelcome is key if you live in a mountain lion habitat.”
Another tactic is to leave the radio on loudly, as human voices scare away lions. Finally, Rachel states that people should never feed wildlife (which is illegal) or leave pet food outside – a deer or raccoon looking for a meal provided by a human will soon attract a lion looking for its own meal.
She also stressed the importance of educating children about mountain lion safety.
“If they see a mountain lion,[they]have to shout at the top of their lungs, ‘Go away, mountain lion! “Little children don’t have deep voices,” she said, “but keep them as firm as possible.”
She added that shouting “mountain lion” can help alert people around the area that predators are nearby.
Living with lions
Rachel states that lion attacks on pets are unheard of in Grand County, but not very common.
“You tend to see these (attacks) happen more in the Boulder area, in populated places,” she said. “We haven’t seen any more attacks this year (in Grand) than in the past.”
Attacks on humans are much rarer. Since 1990, Parks and Wildlife has recorded 25 attacks on humans, which resulted in three deaths. According to Parks and Wildlife, the most recent attack on a human in Colorado occurred in Loveland March 2020. In August 2019, a hunter was attacked by a lion He scouts an elk on the Kremmling, but succeeds in driving the lion away by throwing stones and stabbing it with a pocketknife.
Mountain lions are intrinsically afraid of humans, who are predators in their own right and hunt them. The question is whether the lions in the area have maintained this fear. Recent attacks and repeated sightings indicate that they may no longer feel threatened by the humans they previously cohabited with.
In the meantime, officials encourage Grand County visitors and residents to contact parks and wildlife upon sightings of each lion, to keep pets close at all times, and to practice hazing behaviors (like screaming and flashing lights) to help keep their pets, and themselves, safe.
“We want wildlife to always remain wild, but human health and safety is our number one priority,” said Rachel Gonzalez.