On June 1, 2012 a mountain lion that wandered too close to town was given a second chance, thanks to Colorado Division of Wildlife's humane and scientific approach to wildlife conflict management.
Residents of the small, rural community of Morrison — home of the Red Rocks Amphitheater, and whose motto is "The Nearest Faraway Place" — awoke to the news that a mountain lion had wandered into town and was calmly sitting up in a tree.
Neighbors first spotted the mountain lion Friday morning around 8:30 a.m. lounging in a tall cottonwood tree and notified the Colorado Division of Wildlife's (CDOW) local Parks and Wildlife office. Lions are most active at night and will find a safe place to bed down during the day. Some experts also believe this lion may have been spooked by another animal, and sought refuge in the tree near Red Rocks Country Club. But unfortunately, this resting place was a bit too close to town and he soon caught the attention of residents and local photographers.
"It's the first time I've seen one but I've heard that they've been seen in the neighborhood before," said Morrison resident Allan Udin. "We're intruding on their habitat so I guess it's more our problem, I suppose. I don't think it concerns me that much."
As hours passed and the crowd grew, the lion became agitated. Wildlife expert Jennifer Churchill commented, "We think that this cat would really like to go," adding though that "It's a good sign that he's staying up there, it shows this cat is afraid of people."
The cat stayed put even as three oblivious deer strolled under the tree and began grazing. The amount of fear and nervousness he felt to resist the easy meal because of the presence of people further showed this cat was no threat to public safety.
When asked why they did not tranquilize and move the lion, CDOW personnel commented that this cat hadn't done anything wrong. Their current policy only gives lions one free pass (which is still more than almost every other state!). The first time a mountain lion comes too close to people and has to be relocated, the cat is marked with an ear tag. If an ear tagged lion approaches developed areas, it's killed.
So by not putting their hands on this cat, CDOW preserved the lion's free pass and allowed him to continue on his way, naturally. And that's exactly what he did. The people were cleared out and as the sun went down the lion took off back into the foothills.
To help promote humane policies like Colorado's two-strike rule and letting non-threatening animals return to their habitats on their own, please contact your state's wildlife agency. Tell them it's time to update their mountain lion public safety policies and ensure proper training for field officers.
Then, please take a moment to thank the Colorado Division of Wildlife for their professionalism and humane approach to lion encounters. Encourage them to also protect mountain lions in their natural habitats by reducing the number of lions allowed to be killed annually by sport hunters.
Click here for CDOW contact information. If you use the form, select topic "Co-existing with wildlife."