A Colorado reality check: lions roam and kill

  • Attacked by a lion: Park ranger Chris Philippi

    Steve Lipsher/Denver Post
 

On July 17, 10-year-old Mark David Miedema was hiking minutes ahead of his parents in Rocky Mountain National Park when an 88-pound pregnant female mountain lion attacked. The lion had fled by the time the family found the unconscious boy. Miedema, who choked on his own vomit, was dead when park rangers arrived.

Three hours later, the lion returned and attacked a ranger who was standing guard over Miedema's body until the coroner arrived. The ranger shot and wounded the animal, which was then tracked and killed.

This was the second mountain lion to attack a Colorado national park visitor in three days. On the afternoon of July 14, on Mesa Verde National Park's northern edge, an attack near a parking lot left a 4-year-old French boy with lacerations to his left ear, shoulder and nose.

Park rangers were escorting the boy's family off a trail near where a lion had been spotted. When the boy saw the lion, a young male, just off the trail, he screamed and ran, apparently provoking the lion's chase instinct. The animal pounced and dragged him into the bushes. The boy's family scared the lion off and rangers shot and killed it.

Department of Wildlife officials say Colorado's rapid urban growth and the popularity of the state's national parks have made attacks inevitable. As tourists pour into wilderness areas during the summer, where wildlife are protected from hunting, animals shed their instinctive fear of humans.

"There's just no reason for (lions) to be afraid of us," says Todd Malmsbury, Division of Wildlife spokesman. "Clearly, there will be more encounters."

Still, lion attacks are rare. Lions have killed fewer than a dozen people in the United States this century, including two in the last seven years in Colorado, where the lion population is estimated at around 3,000. The last fatal attack in Colorado took the life of an Idaho Springs jogger in 1991.

State wildlife officials also say there are more lions in Colorado now than at any other period since World War II. This is largely because their traditional food sources - elk, deer, and small mammals like raccoons - are more plentiful. In 1965, Colorado was also the first state to ban hunting lions for bounty, though hunting them in season is still legal. Officials say sightings and legal hunting kills have increased steadily. Last year, hunters took 319 mountain lions, double the annual average 10 years ago.

Officials advise people not to turn and run from a lion. Instead, people should wave their arms and stand tall while slowly backing away.

But, says Malmsbury, "You are many more times likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a lion."

* Jamie Murray and Peter Chilson

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a friendly, detail-oriented, and self-motivated Development Coordinator to provide administrative support to the Development department. This position will report to...
  • FIELD ORGANIZER, MONTANA
    Help Northern Plains Resource Council protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the...
  • FOR SALE
    Successful llama trekking business with Yellowstone National Park concession for sale! A fun and enriching business opportunity of a lifetime! Call 406-580-5954
  • ALBUQUERQUE VACATION HOME
    Centrally located. One bed, one bath, lovely outdoor patio, well-stocked kitchen.
  • NEW AGRARIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Quivira (www.quiviracoaltion.org), a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that aims to shift current practices of agriculture and land stewardship to those that produce good food, support meaningful...
  • SPECTACULAR SCENIC MOUNTAIN VIEW HOME BUILDING SITE
    Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    opportunity in Eugene, Oregon! To learn more and to apply, visit our website at www.bufordpark.org.
  • FUNDRAISING & OUTREACH COORDINATOR
    Does the prospect of working to protect one of the Southwest's last remaining flowing rivers get you excited? Join the team at Friends of the...
  • DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT SPECIALIST
    Position Summary Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a dynamic, organized, and creative Digital Engagement Specialist to be an essential part of our growing Communications Team....
  • NORTH IDAHO FIELD REPRESENTATIVE
    Founded by sportsmen and women 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to conserving and enhancing Idaho's natural resources, wildlife, habitat,...
  • SMALL HISTORICAL FARM FOR SALE - NEW MEXICO
    23-acres, adobe home, shop, barn, gardens, pasture, orchard. https://www.zillow.com/homes/222-Calle-Del-Norte,-Monticello,-Nm_rb/ or call 575-743-0135.
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year round outdoor living. REDUCED to: $1.17 MM 575-536-3109
  • GRANTS MANAGER AND EDITOR
    Are you a strong communicator who excels at building relationships, writing winning grant proposals, and staying organized? You sound like a good fit for our...
  • REPORTER
    The Wallowa County Chieftain, has an opening for a reporter. Experience with and understanding of editorial photography also required. Journalism degree or equivalent, an understanding...
  • 2017 JOHN DEERE LAWN MOWER Z930R
    15 hours on it, 3 years warranty, 22,5 HP, $1600 Sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • OWN YOUR OWN CANYON - 1400 SF STRAW-BALE ECO-HOME ON 80 ACRES - 3 HOURS FROM L.A.
    1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • HEAD BREAD/PASTRY BAKER AND ASSISTANT POSITIONS
    Hiring Part/Full time for Summer Season - entry level & experienced positions. Year round employment for optimal candidates. Pay DOE.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921