Sunday, July 22, 2007

Colo. cougar attack: Other horses may have chased cat away

Dennis Webb
Vail, CO Colorado
July 18, 2007

SILT — When Lee Kirk found her 3 1/2-week-old colt cut and bloodied in its Silt Mesa corral the morning of July 4, it raised two questions.

The answer to the first — what went after the foal — appears to be a mountain lion. The deeper mystery is how the colt managed to avoid being killed in the attack, which happened after it got out of its corral.

“Before (the lion) could reach the jugular and bite him, something stopped him,” Kirk said.

Kirk has a hunch that something involved a herd of seven horses in the field surrounding the corral. One or more of them may have fended off the attacker.

The large and deep wounds the colt suffered “could have been pretty much only made by a lion,” said veterinarian Eric Everett, who graduated this spring from Colorado State University and has been handling much of the foal’s care during his internship this summer at Glenwood Veterinary Clinic.

Kirk said the foal apparently got out of a small “pass-through” she uses to get in and out of the corral. It may have then squealed to its mother from outside the corral, attracting the lion.

Brian Gray, a district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, examined the scene of the attack on July 6. He was unable to find any mountain lion tracks and only has Luedke’s assessment to go on, but said the attack occurred in an area of good mountain lion habitat.

Gray said it’s “very uncommon” for livestock in lower country such as Silt Mesa to be attacked by lions. Big bands of sheep grazing in the high country tend to be more likely targets. But he noted that a lion killed some lambs in Silt last year.

If a lion attacked the foal, it probably wasn’t an adult lion, or it would have killed its prey, Gray believes. He also thinks other horses may have kicked the lion and driven it away.

“Lions don’t like to get injured. An injured lion doesn’t make it very long,” he said.

The experience may provide some inspiration when the Kirks decide on a name for the young colt.

Said Kirk, “My husband wants to call him Second Chance, or just Chance. I’m not real wild about that … it just doesn’t hit me like a name for this colt.”

Despite the life-threatening injuries, Everett believes the foal will live. He thinks it will have to remain another week with its mother at Glenwood Veterinary Clinic before returning home, where its injuries will require care.

He said caregivers initially had to clean grass, cactus and other debris from the foal’s wounds. Keeping horse wounds clean and free of infection can be challenging because of the dirt, flies and other contaminants found in their environment, he said.

Although lions also pose some threat to people — children in particular — Gray said there’s a much larger chance of getting bitten by a dog.

Kirk said she didn’t want authorities trying to do anything about the lion that apparently attacked her foal.

“It was just a lion being a lion,” she said.

http://www.vaildaily.com/article/ 20070718/NEWS/70718008

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