RESIDENTS URGED TO AVOID ENCOUNTERS WITH MOUNTAIN LIONS
SANTA FE -- The appearance of a mountain lion in an Eldorado residential area on Monday is a reminder that cougar sightings are not uncommon in developments bordering habitat that supports the wild predators.
Although human-cougar encounters are relatively rare, the Department of Game and Fish advises residents -- especially those in outlying areas -- to be aware of their surroundings and to take precautions to avoid encounters with large predators.
Lions generally are attracted to communities for food. They are most active from dusk to dawn, although they sometimes travel and hunt in daylight. Lions prefer to eat deer; however, they also kill elk, small mammals, livestock and a variety of domestic animals such as dogs and cats.
The cougar captured Monday was a mature female that appeared to have lost its instinctive fear of humans. The initial plan was to release the cougar in the Jemez Mountains, but it was euthanized after the Department determined that it was too dangerous to be released.
Here are some ways to protect yourself, your family and wildlife from unwanted encounters with mountain lions and other large predators:
- Do not feed wildlife. Use native plants, not non-natives, so as to not attract deer, which are the primary prey of lions. Remember, predators follow prey.
- Do not let your pets roam around outside. Bring them in at night. If you keep pets outside, provide a kennel with a secure top. Do not feed pets outside where the food can attract lions or other smaller animals which lions prey upon. Store and dispose of all garbage securely.
- Closely supervise children. Make sure they are home before dusk and not outside before dawn. Make lots of noise if you come or go during times when mountain lions are most active -- dusk to dawn. Teach your children about lions and what they should do if they encounter one.
- Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding cover for lions, especially around areas where children play. Make it difficult for a lion to approach unseen.
- Install outdoor lighting, especially in areas where you walk, so you can see a lion if one were present.
- Close off open spaces below porches or decks.
- Place all livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close the doors to all outbuildings so that an inquisitive lion is prevented from going inside to look around.
Mountain lion encounters and attacks are extremely rare, but if you do encounter a lion in the wild or in town:
- Stop or back away slowly if you can do so safely.
- Stay calm when you come upon a lion talk calmly yet firmly to it and move slowly.
- Immediately pick up all children off the ground and tell them to stay calm.
- Do not run from a lion as fleeing behavior may trigger the instinct of the lion to attack.
- Face the lion -- do not turn your back -- remain in an upright position and look as large as possible (raise your arms, open up your coat, if your wearing one).
- Carry a walking stick and use it to defend yourself by keeping it between you and the lion. If the lion approaches closer or behaves aggressively, arm yourself with the stick, throw rocks or sticks at the lion, and speak louder and more firmly to the lion. Convince the lion you are dominant and a danger to it.
- Fight back if a lion attacks you. Use any possible object within reach as a weapon, such as rocks, sticks, jackets, a backpack or your bare hands. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. Stay standing and if you fall down try to get back up on your feet.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is responsible for managing, conserving and protecting wildlife. If you have an encounter with a lion or an attack occurs, please contact the Department at (505) 476-8000 during regular business hours, or your local sheriff's or police department if you feel you are in danger.
For more information about mountain lions and living around large predators, please visit the Department Web site and check out the publication, Living with Large Predators in New Mexico.