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Mountain lion spotted near Hot Springs, Mad Creek trails

At least two people have reportedly seen a mountain lion along the Hot Springs Trail outside of Steamboat Springs. People are encouraged to report any sightings or encounters with mountain lions to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
File photo/Joel Reichenberger

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Multiple mountain lion sightings have been reported in a popular hiking and biking area outside Steamboat Springs this week.

At least two people said they saw a mountain lion along the Hot Springs Trail near Mad Creek. On Monday, local resident Becky Sears Edmiston posted on a Facebook group about seeing one of the animals that afternoon.

According to a comment she left below the post, Edmiston saw it under a large pine tree close to the trail. A sign has been posted at the beginning of the trail warning passersby of a mountain lion with cubs, but the sign has been there for at least a year.

Though they can be dangerous, mountain lions rarely attack humans, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Since 1990, the animals have injured 22 people, said Randy Hampton, a local public information officer with CPW. In that time, three fatalities have been attributed to mountain lions. The last death occurred in 1999, Hampton said.

Three mountain lion attacks have been reported in the last year, he added. The last attack occurred in Loveland in March when a mountain lion with rabies pounced on a Larimer County Sheriff’s Office deputy. The lion also attacked a civilian.

What to do if you encounter a mountain lion

Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to know whenever you see a mountain lion or notice lion-like activity close to a town, or if a human action causes a change in what the lion is doing.

You can report a mountain lion by contacting CPW’s Steamboat office at 970-870-2197. After 5 p.m. or on the weekends, you can report it by calling Routt County Communications’ non-emergency line at 970-879-1110.

If you do encounter a lion, the agency recommends taking the following steps:

  • Go in groups when you walk or hike in mountain lion country and make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea; it can be used to ward off a lion. Make sure children are close to you and within your sight at all times. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
  • Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly.
  • Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Running may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.
  • Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you’re wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up, so they won’t panic and run.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
  • Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands successfully. Remain standing or try to get back up.

Mountain lions have been seen across Routt County. They follow food sources, and their primary diet is mule deer. Encounters have become more frequent with the rise in recreation and as more people move to the animal’s habitat.

In the last year, 12 mountain lion sightings have been reported in the Steamboat Springs area, Hampton said, the latest of which was in May at Rita Valentine Park. In response, CPW put up a sign to alert people. 

Mountain lions are active throughout the day but are most active in the early morning and late evening, according to CPW. If people are outside recreating during these times, the agency recommends they carry a light, noisemakers and pepper spray and keep dogs on a leash.

If people see a mountain lion, they should remain calm and avoid running away, according to CPW. Running could activate a lion’s natural instinct to chase and attack. People should face the lion and try to appear larger by raising their arms.

If a mountain lion behaves aggressively, people should fight back by throwing stones, branches or any sturdy objects without crouching down or turning their back to the animal, according to CPW. Such tactics have scared away mountain lions in previous attacks.

CPW keeps a close eye on mountain lion activity in the state. People can report a mountain lion sighting or encounter by contacting the agency’s Steamboat office at 970-870-2197. After 5 p.m. or on the weekends, people can report it by calling Routt County Communications’ non-emergency line at 970-879-1110.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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