16 May 2006

Mountain Lion Invades Boulder Home

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Even in Western states where lions are still hunted, mountain lion numbers are up, and the big cats are being forced to hunt more widely and more frequently by competition from (now completely protected) scavenger species. Dick Ray, a lion hunting outfiter, believes:

pressure from other predators and scavengers is causing the big cats to kill on a more frequent basis today than they have in the past. Dick and I have shared a number of lion chases together and it used to be, when you found a fresh lion kill it was generally a partially eaten deer carcass covered by raked up pine duff, sticks and leaves. In most cases the satiated cat would stay in the vicinity of the kill until the carcass was consumed, before hunting again. Such isn’t the case today.

With the proliferation of the protected scavenger birds such as ravens, crows and magpies, a fresh cougar kill is located by the keen eyed birds within a short time and their raucous racket soon attracts the attention of opportunistic coyotes that key on the boisterous birds to locate carrion or kills. (Every magpie may not have a lion or coyote following it, but you can bet every coyote or lion has a magpie.) The constant harassment by a few determined coyotes quickly drives the frustrated cat from its fresh kill. Under the onslaught from coyotes and flocks of voracious scavenger birds, within forty eight hours or less the only thing left at the site of the cougar kill is a few scraps of hide and scattered bones, forcing the cat to kill again.

This Sunday, a young mountain lion entered a North Boulder home through a pet door, killed and ate the family cat, then went back outside and curled up for a nap on the lawn.

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