Cougar kills dog in Gypsum
Wildlife officer says mountain lion may have been sick or starving
Gypsum, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado — Tara Haymond woke up at 2 a.m. Sunday to the sound of Bubba, her 150-pound Great Pyrenees dog, crying.
"I thought I better tell him to be quiet so he wouldn't bother the neighbor," she said.
She opened the sliding door next to the bed and discovered a mountain lion on top of Bubba.
"There is nothing in anybody that would prepare them to find that," she said.
The 47-year-old grabbed a shotgun but couldn't find ammunition, so she started hitting the cougar with the gun.
"The cat didn't even flinch," she said. "Then I realized the cat might hurt me so I stopped. I guess I might be lucky in that way."
Her husband was home and she also called a neighbor and Eagle County Sheriff's deputies to the scene, which is near the Sky Legend neighborhood at Gypsum's Cotton Ranch development.
The cougar was still on the dog when they arrived and didn't move until the sheriff fired on it several times, Haymond said.
Bubba was still suffering, however, so the sheriff put him down as well at the owners' request.
The deputy was unavailable for comment.
According to John Grove with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the mountain lion was young — about nine months to a year old — and it was very skinny. Probably it was sick or starving or both, which could result in such atypical behavior as attacking an animal in a populated area. Since this was an anomaly, residents shouldn't be overly worried about any more "aggressive" animals in the area, Grove said.
The town of Gypsum is encouraging residents to be alert for future mountain lion encounters.
The large cats are considered to be nocturnal animals, so it is ideal for dogs, house cats and other domestic animals to be brought inside from dusk until dawn. Additionally, small children should not be left alone outside after dark and should not be left to play outside in more remote areas at any time.
Though the number of mountain lion/human interactions has increased in recent years, the number of fatal attacks on humans remains very small. There have been less than two dozen fatal attacks in the last 100 years. Most of the attacks were by young lions, forced to hunt on their own. Young mountain lions may key in on easy prey, such as pets and small children. They can be attracted to pet food and trash left outside, especially in cold temperatures.
Haymond feels that residents in her area should've been more vigilant about alerting each other to possible danger.
"A little advance notice could've prevented this," she said. "I believe it's really important that neighbors tell each other when they see a cougar in their driveway. People had known the cat was around and didn't say anything. There are kids in the area. Fortunately this [victim] was a four-legged kid and not a two-legged one. If I had known I might've had a round in my shotgun."
Haymond is also appreciative of the neighborhood's show of love for her dog, which she described as sweet and shy.
"Everyone — the whole neighborhood — happened to show up at just the right time and we buried him," she said.
Besides Bubba, Haymond and her husband also have three dogs and three cats, but the third cat has been missing for a few days.
Haymond expressed despair.
"I felt hopeless when I couldn't find any bullets, utterly hopeless," she said. "And I still feel hopeless."
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org