Friday, March 23, 2007

Colo. Dept. of Wildlife plans to track cougars

By John Fryar
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — The Colorado Division of Wildlife wants to monitor the movements and behaviors of six mountain lions in Boulder and Jefferson counties, particularly in locations where cougars might be expected to come into contact with humans.

"We would like to find out how the lions act when they live in close proximity to people," DOW spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said this week.

On Thursday night, the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee is to consider the DOW's proposal, which initially would involve capturing six mountain lions and putting Global Positioning System devices and tracking collars on each.

The DOW would conduct its study in an area between Interstate 70 and the Boulder-Larimer county line.

DOW staffers have said they'd try to capture and collar two mountain lions in each of three areas: the city of Boulder's mountain open space, Boulder County open space to the north of Boulder and Jefferson County open space to the south of Boulder.

Then, when the cougars are released to roam again, "one of the things they're looking for is what kind of distribution and movement these lions have in relation to people," said county wildlife specialist Dave Hoerath.

"They want to see how and when lions are interacting with people in people country," Hoerath said Tuesday.

That includes "how much ‘lion time' is spent in areas people frequent," Hoerath said, and how much time they stick to locations remote from humans and such human structures as roads, trails and buildings.

County Parks and Open Space director Ron Stewart said the DOW study also could provide information about lions' behavior and movement both when people are around and at nighttime, when public parks and open space areas typically are closed to visitors.

The scientific information collected could allow the county to come up with management techniques to prevent lion-human conflicts, Stewart said.

On April 15, 2006, Shir Feldman, a 7-year-old Maryland boy, was attacked by an 80-pound female cougar while hiking with his family just 30 yards from the parking lot of a popular overlook on Boulder city open space on Flagstaff Mountain.

There haven't been many confirmed lion sightings or actual encounters with humans on county open space, Stewart said Tuesday, but "I can't have any complaint about getting more information about how wildlife operates."

The mountain lion "is a wonderful creature as well as an animal that can be hazardous to people," Stewart said.

Stewart's department has asked the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee to recommend whether Boulder County should proceed with entering into an agreement with the DOW about the mountain lion research study, whose initial nine- to 12-month phase would be fully funded by the state.

If you go

What: Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee discussion of Front Range cougar study

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Third-floor hearing room, Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder

http://www.longmontfyi.com/Local-Story.asp?id=15314

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