Ring doorbell camera captures video of 5 mountain lions in Silverthorne, prompting warnings from wildlife officials
A little before 11 p.m. on April 1, Silverthorne resident Carolyn Andrews received a notification from her Ring doorbell app that movement had been detected in the yard to the side of her house in the Blue River Run subdivision.
When Andrews went to check the video, she was surprised by what she saw. Roaming just feet from her deck and not far from the Willow Creek, which flows by her home, was not one, not two — but five mountain lions.
“We get quite a lot of wildlife because of the water there,” Andrews said. “We get quite a lot of moose and bears. I’ve had mountain lions before, but I’ve never seen them in a pack of five.”
Having heard stories about mountain lions killing pets, Andrews said the first thing she did was notify her next door neighbor, who has a golden retriever. Later, she posted the videos online to let others know about the feline predators lurking nearby.
But, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, while mountain lion sightings are relatively rare, the cats — which are also called pumas, cougars and panthers — themselves are not uncommon in the Rocky Mountains.
“This is mountain lion country,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rachael Gonzales said. “Chances are that there are mountain lions roaming around. They use river corridors, things like that, to move back and forth as they’re tracking their prey.”
Mountain lions are elusive creatures by nature, Gonzales said, so much so that in her 38 years living and recreating outdoors in Colorado, she has only seen one mountain lion in the wild. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates there are between 4,500 and 5,500 mountain lions statewide. Due largely to the emergence of new video technologies like Ring doorbells, Gonzales said, sightings of mountain lions have increased in recent years.
“You don’t often see them at all, so when you do get that opportunity to see them, whether it’s on your Ring doorbell or your neighbor’s, it’s a cool sight,” Gonzales said. “When you do see it, make sure you are keeping your distance, being smart about it and enjoying the wildlife safely.”
Mountain lion sightings or conflicts should be immediately reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife so the division can start monitoring the lion and its behavior as soon as possible, Gonzales said. Summit County residents should report sightings to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hot Sulfur Springs office by calling 970-725-6200.
Homeowners should not allow mountain lions to feel comfortable in their yard, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and should haze the animal away from their property by making loud noises — such as setting off a car alarm, banging pots and pans together, or blowing an air horn.
While human and mountain lion encounters are rare — far less common than encounters with bears or moose — Colorado Parks and Wildlife also offers advice on what people should do if they find themselves face to face with a mountain lion.
“You don’t want to turn and run. It’s being SMART,” Gonzales said, referring to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife acronym. “Make noise. You just want to make them feel as uncomfortable as you possibly can.”
SMART stands for: Stop — do not run! Make yourself look big. Announce your presence in an authoritative voice: “leave me alone!” Retreat by backing away slowly. Tell an adult about the encounter.
As with moose and bears, mountain lions pose the greatest threat to humans when they are encountered with their babies — known as kittens. Like most cats, mountain lions ambush their prey, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The feline hunters stalk their prey using available cover, then attack with a rush — often from behind.
Mountain lions typically kill with a powerful bite below the base of the skull, breaking the neck, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They then drag the carcass to a sheltered spot beneath a tree or overhang to feed.
Often, the predators will cover the carcass with dirt, leaves or snow and may return to feed on it over the course of a couple days, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists said. Anyone who encounters such a carcass should immediately report it to their local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office to have it removed as leaving it could lead to the mountain lion’s return, Gonzales said.
Mountain lions are most active from dusk to dawn, although they also sometimes travel and hunt in the daytime, according to biologists with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. One of North America’s biggest cats, mountain lions prefer to eat deer but also hunt elk, porcupines, small mammals, livestock and domesticated pets.
After Andrews posted the video of mountain lions in her yard, Summit Lost Pet Rescue — a local nonprofit dedicated to rescuing lost pets — helped spread the word to pet owners in the area.
“It’s up to us pet owners to be proactive and keep our pets safe,” Summit Lost Pet Rescue co-founder and director Melissa Davis said. “We live in an area where wild animals live. They were here first.”
The best way to protect pets from mountain lions and other predators is to keep them close or on a leash, Davis said. Keeping pets indoors — especially overnight — and not letting them roam, will lessen the chances of them becoming prey, she said.
Though it can be hard to confirm whether a pet that goes missing was killed by a mountain lion, another predator or a car, there have been confirmed mountain lion killings of pets in Colorado this year, Davis said.
Davis recalled one search for a missing cat in Breckenridge when she stumbled upon what appeared to be the den of a predator — whether a mountain lion, coyote or other predator — not more than 500 yards past the owner’s house.
“The hair stood up on my body,” Davis recalled, saying she had the sense that something was watching her. “I stumbled upon some sort of wildlife den because there were deceased animals there.”
Davis said she found the remains of a cat, but the owner declined to do a DNA test to confirm that it was the missing pet.
“We never want to come across those situations, but that is part of what we do,” she said. “We do find most of the animals alive and well, but we have found a few deceased. It’s sad, but it does provide a warning to other pet owners.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.