WESTERN SLOPE, Colo.- - While living in Colorado, it is important to remember you're not the only species calling this state home.
With a robust mountain lion population and more people moving to the state, an increase in sightings in rural areas are becoming a little more common. But it is a matter of how to live with the wildlife the state provides us.
A mountain lion sighting near Hotchkiss K-8 School on Tuesday, January 17, caused some locals to become slightly frightened. Stuart Sinclair, District Wildlife Manager for the Gunnison Area Colorado Parks and Wildlife, explained, "I was out here in the morning to see if it was going to show back up...got a phone call that it got hit by a car just over here on highway 133 and was dead...I went and picked it up and proceeded to bring it over to the elementary school to let them know that the problem was solved."
After getting it cleared with the school's administration, Sinclair brought the lion to the school to make it a learning experience for the children. Students learned about the ecology of mountain lions, what they eat, and how they live. London West, 4th grader at Hotchkiss K-8, told, "they're powerful creatures...have sharp claws, and they're much stronger compared to a house cat." "We can't feed the deer because if we feed deer, most likely mountain lion are going to come in because they're looking for the deer to eat," said Paris West, 6th grader at Hotchkiss K-8 School.
As many people live in mountain lion country, it is important to remember a variety of things, "don't feed wildlife, don't leave your trash out, don't leave your pet food out, especially when bears are active. You certainly don't want to feed foxes, you don't want to feed smaller animals [because] you'll eventually attract a pure predator like a lion, " said Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Public Information Officer, for the northwest region, Mike Porras.
There are a number of pointers one should be aware of if an encounter with a mountain lion occurs, Porras explained, "the number one thing is never turn and run from any predator, certainly you don't want to turn and run from a lion. You want to face that lion. You want to try to make yourself look as large as possible. Wave your arms, take off a jacket, and wave your jacket and talk firmly to it." Porras added, "in the very rare case that a lion does attack, then what you want to do is fight back as aggressively as you can. If you fall to the ground, you want to get back up. You want to show that lion that you are not prey."
It is important for residents of the Western Slope to remember and understand, how to live together peacefully with wildlife that also call Colorado home.