By Seth Richardson
On Monday morning, a mountain lion was seen hunting near Manitou Springs Elementary School. Although school officials and police used extra vigilance during the day and police removed the raccoon the lion had killed, hoping that it won’t return, the attitudes of both the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and the school Principal Russ Vogel towards this event are disturbingly blithe to the danger to the public this lion poses.
Vogel is quoted in a Gazette story by R. Scott Rappold as saying “We try to keep it in perspective for (students), that it’s part of nature and a beautiful animal that we need to be safe and smart around.” Yes, mountain lions are beautiful, and dangerous, and to be “safe and smart” about them when they come near a schoolyard in a densely populated area like Manitou Springs we need to do one thing: track down and kill that lion immediately.
Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife attempted to, as is usual for the Division, shift the blame to residents who “feed little critters” in their backyards which “jeopardizes the safety” of the neighborhood and that “a bird feeder can become a mountain lion feeder.” While it is true that the public shouldn’t be feeding wildlife, mountain lions don’t show up in foothills or mountain subdivisions or near schools because people are feeding the birds, they show up in the urban/wildland interface zone because lion population pressures in the back country and abundant prey sources in the urban/wildland interface bring them there.
There are many reasons why this is so, not the least of which are local regulations that prohibit deer hunting in or near mountain subdivisions and a misguided “can’t we all just get along” bunny-hugger attitude about the presence of mountain lions near human populations.
But here’s the dirty little fact that Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is loathe to tell the public: Whenever a mountain lion sees another living creature it’s engaging in a careful calculation and it’s making a decision that boils down to “can I attack, kill and eat this creature without being injured or killed, or do I need to flee from this creature because it’s more powerful and dangerous than I am?”
And that includes encounters with human beings, and in this case, elementary school children.
There is no wild animal in Colorado that is more dangerous to human beings, and especially children, than a mountain lion that has become habituated to human beings and their activities, because such lions no longer fear humans and are therefore easily capable of viewing them as prey when the opportunity arises, as it has here in Colorado. In the past 20 years, the three fatal attacks by mountain lions in Colorado have been on small children or, in one case, a high school student running alone on a trail in Clear Creek County.
But the chances of a fatal encounter with a lion go up dramatically when habituated lions start feeding in human-populated areas. It starts with the lion, for whatever reason, predating on family pets, and the more comfortable the lion becomes around human activity, the greater the danger to humans.
In the back country of Colorado, where mountain lions are both hunted by and are not habituated to humans, it’s very rare to ever see one up close. Ask any lion hunter how difficult it is to find, much less get close enough to shoot one with a rifle in the back country if you disbelieve this.
But in places like Boulder County, mountain lion “encounters” in the foothills, and even inside the city limits of Boulder, are not in the least bit uncommon. Lions have been seen stalking hikers and runners on Boulder’s extensive trail system and have even been seen perched in trees overlooking popular trails, just waiting for a meal.
But the bunny-huggers in Boulder, and the DOP&W, go right on insisting that your odds of being attacked by a mountain lion are very small, statistically speaking. And they are right, but that means nothing if YOU are the one the lion picks for dinner.
The “experts” constantly repeat the mantra that if you encounter a lion you should “look big” and “back away slowly” and take other defensive actions, but what they never, ever tell you to do…unless pressed, is take out your handgun and shoot the lion dead on the spot.
Now, relatively few people carry guns when going for a day-hike in the foothills, and I like to call those who do “Darwinian Winners.” Everyone else is a candidate for natural selection.
So, here’s some advice: If you are a Darwinian Winner, and you see a mountain lion while out hiking, or walking down your residential street in Manitou Springs, and you can see anything at all but the lion’s rear end as it flees from you, you’re in jeopardy. If the lion is looking at you, crouching down or approaching you, you are in immediate mortal danger because a mountain lion can cover 40 feet horizontally with a single leap, which means that even if you’re 50 yards away, you’re about four seconds away from being taken down. If you are close enough to hit it with your handgun, no matter what the range, you should do so, immediately, and don’t stop shooting till it’s dead. Do society and your neighbors a big favor by removing that dangerous predator from the community permanently. And if you do, and some nitwit from the state tries to say you weren’t justified in shooting the lion and gives you a ticket, let me know and I’ll provide the tape recordings of state wildlife officials admitting that it’s perfectly lawful to kill a mountain lion if you feel you’re in danger. And as I said, if the lion is anywhere close to you, sees you, and fails to immediately flee from you, you are absolutely in imminent danger.
The actions of the school in response to this lion sighting of having “more staff than usual outside on the grounds” was grossly deficient and negligent unless every one of those staff members was armed with a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with #4 buck shot, which is highly unlikely. A lion could easily dart out of the brush and grab a child and be gone before anyone without a gun could do anything effective.
Fifty years ago, a mountain lion sighting in or near any town in Colorado would have resulted in a posse being formed of armed citizens and lion-hunters with dogs who would have tracked down and killed that lion no matter how long it took, which is the only rational and reasonable response to an invading, habituated dangerous mountain lion around our children.
Mountain lions have their place, and it’s far away from human settlements, in the vast areas of forest and wilderness that Colorado affords them as proper habitat. There, they should be respected and left alone, and carefully managed. But when a lion ventures into human territory, it needs to die, and die as quickly as anyone with a firearm can make it dead, because merely by being accustomed to human beings and their habitat, they have become too dangerous for society to tolerate a moment longer than it takes to find and kill them. That’s just the hard, cold fact.
Until this lion is tracked down and killed, no resident of Manitou Springs should leave their child at a bus stop in the early morning without an armed guard there to protect them, and outside activities at schools should be curtailed completely unless the school also provides for an adequate number of trained and armed playground guards.
Let’s hope nothing bad happens, but let’s prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
And let’s find and kill that lion.
© 2012 Altnews