Monday, March 08, 2010

Young cougar captured, euthanized in Colorado

3/8/2010 11:26:00 AM

Lion enters home

Audrey Gilpin - Mail Staff Writer

A malnourished male mountain lion entered a home off U.S. 285 about 9 miles northwest of Salida about 4 p.m. Thursday, killing one dog and briefly trapping a mother and two children inside.

Jim Aragon, Colorado Division of Wildlife Area manager, said wildlife officers tranquilized the 18-month-old lion before it was subsequently euthanized.

The lion jumped a 6-foot chain-link fence and chased a Jack Russell terrier through a pet door into the home, Aragon explained.

He said Michelle Bese and her two children were home. The 2-year-old was asleep in the back bedroom. The 5-year-old and Bese were sitting at the kitchen table when the lion entered the utility room, he said.

Bese told The Mountain Mail Friday, "I heard the commotion, went to the utility room and saw my terrier in the animal's mouth. In the span of about 30 seconds, I thought it was a stray dog, then a coyote - then I was like, no, that's a big cat with big claws."

Bese grabbed her 5-year-old and ran to the back bedroom where the other child was sleeping, shut the door and called 911.

Chaffee County Sheriff's Deputies arrived, helped Bese and her children escape through the bedroom window and opened front and back doors of the house to enable the lion to escape, Aragon said.

He said when he and wildlife manager Kim Woodruff arrived, the lion was still in the home.

Aragon, Woodruff and deputy Rod Lane entered the house through the back bedroom window.

"We cracked the door open wide enough to see the lion and were able to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart," Aragon said.

After evaluating the physical condition of the lion, Aragon said it was decided to euthanize the animal.

There were five dogs in the home - four shih tzus and the terrier.

Linda Bese, mother-in-law of Michelle, also a resident, wasn't home when the lion entered.

She told The Mountain Mail her shih tzu, Numchucks, was taken to Mountain Shadows Animal Hospital in Salida where the animal died from its injuries.

The terrier and two other shih tzus were also treated. Each shih tzu lost an eye and one also received a broken jaw, she said.

The terrier, "surprisingly, had only minor lacerations and puncture wounds," she said.

Linda Bese explained, "(The terrier) been barking for several days, but we didn't think much of it. We've lived in this house since 1986 and nothing like this has ever happened.

"We've seen coyotes, raccoons, a bobcat and a bear, but never a mountain lion," she said, adding that the pet door is now latched.

Aragon said although the area "isn't outside the range of mountain lions, it's extremely rare for a mountain lion to enter a home."

The lion weighed about 40 pounds, and a "healthy lion that age should be closer to 60 pounds," he said.

Its remains will be sent to the division laboratory in Fort Collins for necropsy as "standard procedure," Aragon said.

He continued, "We hope to learn more after we get results of the necropsy. This animal wasn't demonstrating normal behavior."


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