In recent days, residents have stumbled upon several animal carcasses and at least two attacks on dogs have been reported. The recent increase in mountain lion sightings prompted officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to alert the Edwards-area to be on high alert.
"This is a troubling situation and we are very concerned for the safety and welfare of the people in this area," CPW Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke said in an online statement Thursday. "We ask everyone to take this warning seriously."
The CPW encouraged locals who spot a big cat in a residential area to alert them immediately and to keep a safe distance.
"We urge residents to be extremely cautious because lions are large, powerful predators and can be very dangerous if they've lost their natural fear of people," CPW District Wildlife Manager Matt Yamashita added in a statement. "We are monitoring the situation very closely."
Based on information they've recieved so far, officials believe there are two female lions that are each traveling with a litter of 3 to 4 juvenile lions — though the young lions are "nearly full grown, as large or possibly larger than their mother," the CPW said.
"It appears the female lions are teaching their young to hunt among a human populated area. Considering we are talking about nearly full-grown lions, this is not a sustainable situation. We will take the appropriate management action as necessary, but what the action will be remains to be seen and will be based on our assessment of public risk and the lion's behavior going forward," Yamashita added.
Mountain lions have already made plenty of headlines in 2019. In early February, a Colorado man was forced to choke a mountain lion to death after it mauled him during a run on West Ridge Trail in the Larimer County foothills. The man, later identified as Travis Kauffman, compared the encounter to a "wrestling match."
An estimated 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions are located in The Centennial State, CPW says, adding "we have more lions than ever before" in some parts of the state.
Wildlife officials remind those who live in a state where mountain lion populations are found to remain vigilant and keep pets close.
"Although lion attacks are rare, they are possible, as is an injury from any wild animal," the National Park Service (NPS) warns on its website. "Even so, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards."
If you do encounter a mountain lion, the NPS suggests staying calm, standing upright and avoiding confrontation. Never approach or run from a lion, as it can "stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase." Similarly, don't bend down as it will make you appear similar to a lion's four-legged prey.
In the event a mountain lion acts aggressively, the NPS says to "appear intimidating."
"If looking bigger doesn't scare the mountain lion off, start throwing stones, branches, or whatever you can reach in its direction without crouching or turning your back. Don't throw things at it just yet. There is no need to unnecessarily injure the mountain lion," the NPS suggests, adding if the creature does start to attack it's important to "fight back."