In the weeks since local wildlife officials began to receive reports of mountain lions near homes in West Glenwood, threatening dogs and stalking humans, criticism of the way Colorado Parks and Wildlife handled the situation persists.
After numerous reports of mountain lions in and around Glenwood Springs, caught on infrared video and at least one personal encounter, officials trapped and killed five of the big cats in January. That decision has prompted strong reactions from Glenwood Springs Post Independent readers, wildlife advocates and people across the state who felt another solution should have been be exercised.
CPW spokesman Mike Porras maintained that wildlife officials did not make the decision arbitrarily and used their years of knowledge and experience working with wildlife to determine that lethal removal of these animals was the correct solution.
One comment Porras said he’d been hearing from those concerned with the actions is that “the wildlife officials took the easy way out.” He said he felt that was both untrue and hurtful to the wildlife officers who have dedicated their lives to protecting the state’s animals, environment and people.
He said killing an animal is “the hardest decision” a wildlife officer has to make, and argued the easier move would have been to trap the animal, take it somewhere else and simply let it be — perhaps to its ultimate demise, regardless.
CPW has received several comments in reaction to previous stories in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and picked up by other media outlets statewide demanding the mountain lions be relocated instead of being euthanized.
Relocating these particular lions, which had shown “no fear to humans,” was not a viable option for wildlife officials, according to Porras.
Porras said that doing so could result in the lions returning to West Glenwood or moving into other human population centers. He added that the displaced lions could disrupt the ecosystem wherever they were moved, especially if there are other established lions nearby.
Last week’s story reporting that five animals had been euthanized received responses from residents in Colorado, California and Washington state, some suggesting that it is the lion’s territory where humans are living. Others offered different solutions for officials.
One example was from Washington, where the state’s department of fish and wildlife adopted a Karelian Bear Dog Program, essentially a hazing technique to try to get the animals to move elsewhere. The primary purpose of the program is to limit the many bear-human conflicts that occur in Washington and reduce the number of bears that have to be lethally removed, according to the state website.
Porras said these types of hazing techniques are used by wildlife officials throughout Colorado, but added that with these particular lions it was not considered an option because there was no guarantee the hazing would result in new learned behavior for the full-sized predators.
He said there was “no guarantee based on one encounter” that the lions would leave for good if hazed, and officials simply were “not willing to take that risk.”
Among the reports wildlife officials received about West Glenwood mountain lion activity last month included multiple attacks on pets, sightings of mountain lions stalking people in the middle of the day and carcasses of recent elk killings left in people’s backyards.