Highway 82 collision claims mountain lion
A mountain lion was hit and struck by a car and found this morning near a bus stop on Highway 82.
Kevin Wright at the Colorado Division of Wildlife reports that he responded to the scene near Aspen Village at roughly 6:45 a.m. He said the animal was an adult male and, judging by its teeth, approximately six years old. He said it was unclear exactly what time the mountain lion was hit.
“It's not that unusual,” Wright said. “It can happen a few times a year. But it's not like bears. We have more bears hit by cars than lions. Still, we do have lions hit here on the highway from time to time.”
A stealth and superb hunter, mountain lions — also known as cougars, panthers and pumas — live in the Roaring Fork Valley and many other areas of Colorado but they are relatively rare to encounter. Conflicts with humans have, however, increased as more humans have encroached into their habitat.
Due to their elusive nature, it is unclear how many cats are in the valley.
“That's a good question. I don't think we have a good grasp of how many are in the valley. They don't lend themselves to a lot of the tracking techniques and methods we use for other animals,” Wright said.
“But I think there are a lot of cats in the valley. More than people realize,” he said.
Mountain lions are known to roam the Missouri Heights and El Jebel areas, Wright said, and have been spotted near popular recreational trails like the Hunter Creek and the Rio Grande in Aspen.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is also documenting cougars hunting bighorn sheep in the Crystal River Valley.
Deer, however, are the main staple in any Colorado cougar's diet.
“They follow the deer — their primary food source is mule deer — they'll usually take down a deer a week,” Wright said. “But they are opportunists. They have been known to take dogs.”
While there have been reported mountain lion attacks on people and pets in Colorado and elsewhere, include some that were fatal, wildlife experts say attacks on humans are uncommon.
“It's pretty rare for a lion to go after somebody,” Wright said. “We just aren't on their diet list.”
UPDATE: Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the mountain lion was skinned and the agency will sell its pelt at the annual trappers auction later this year. "The animal's hind-quarter meat was donated to someone who planned to eat it," he added.
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