A 6-month-old mountain lion getting a little too close for comfort to homes and people around Vallecito was captured last weekend and sent to a rehabilitation center after wildlife officers determined the cub was in poor health.
Matt Thorpe, wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Durango, said reports started coming in around New Year’s Eve that a mountain lion and two cubs were hanging around homes near Vallecito, about 20 miles northwest of Durango.
On Jan. 4, CPW and U.S. Wildlife Services went to Vallecito hoping to scare the animals off.
“This was us trying to be on the more proactive side,” Thorpe said. “With the snow, there’s not a ton of deer or elk up there right now, and it didn’t seem like they were in an ideal spot.”
The two cubs went into a tree, and wildlife officers were hoping the negative experience would cause them to find more suitable habitat to hunt.
But on Thursday, another report came in that the lions were back, and wildlife officers went to Vallecito again Saturday with the intent of chasing them off. As they were doing so, one cub was reluctant to run away and went into a tree.
“She didn’t seem quite right and wasn’t acting the way we’d expect it to,” Thorpe said. “So the decision was made to capture it.”
Wildlife officers used darts to drug the mountain lion, which allowed them to examine the cub more closely.
“Once we had our hands on it, we realized it was in poor condition,” Thorpe said.
The cub, which weighed about 25 pounds, was considered underweight. Wildlife officers surmise when they chased off the lions the first time, the cub was separated from its mom, leading to its poor health. As a result, the decision was made to send the animal to a rehab facility in Silt.
Calls to the facility – the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation – were not returned Tuesday.
But Thorpe said the facility will treat the cub for its injuries and help restore its weight. It’s likely wildlife officials there will also help the lion learn how to hunt for itself. The lion will likely be released in spring or summer, somewhere in Southwest Colorado but not near Vallecito.
“We just want to give the animal the best chance of survival when we’re able to release it,” Thorpe said.