Steamboat runners see mountain lion on Emerald

Big cat not aggressive toward Winter Sports Club athletes

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— Two Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes had a close brush with a big cat during a workout Wednesday when a mountain lion reportedly bounded across the trail in front of them.

The two athletes had become separated from the other five runners and coach during a time trial run to the top of Emerald Mountain. When the group was near the quarry, coach Robbie Massie said he heard a sound and turned around to cheer on the two runners but saw the cat about 10 feet down the trail.

“It just kind of stood there and looked up, and it was chewing on something,” Massie said. “I had the kids all grab big sticks.”

Massie said he herded the runners, ages 15 to 18, away from the edge of the trail where the cat was sitting.

Then, thinking of the two runners who were still down on the trail, Massie said the group started yelling and descending the mountain on another path.

The two who were separated, Conner Bernard, 16, and Alex Rudolph, 15, had taken a wrong turn and were on a different trail, but as they ascended, Bernard said, he saw mountain lion tracks.

The runners going back down the mountain to find the pair missed them because they were on a different track. After reaching the top near the radio towers and starting back down, the duo heard something nearby.

“We stopped for maybe 30 seconds, and we could hear something bounding through the bushes, (but) not necessarily coming at us,” Rudolph said.

The coaches had warned students that a mountain lion could be on the trail, and Bernard knew how to respond.

“I said, ‘Get big, get big,’ and we wrapped onto one another and put our arms up,” he said. “The mountain lion ran anywhere from 10 to 20 feet in front of us, bounding across the trail.”

Bernard said the cat was bigger than a dog, but not huge. He estimated its weight at about 200 pounds.

“It was in full stride, and I have no idea what it was chasing,” he said.

During the ordeal, Massie and another coach were searching the mountainside for the athletes.

The run to the top that usually takes 30 minutes ended an hour and 45 minutes after it started when the groups met at the quarry.

“It was pretty scary, actually,” Massie said.

Jim Haskins, area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said as long as the cat does not display any aggressive behavior or stray near schools, officials will leave it alone.

“Where we’re seeing this lion, there should be lions up there,” Haskins said.

Hikers on Emerald also recently spotted a mountain lion.

Haskins said he would expect there to be a maximum of two cats on Emerald. He said most of the time, the cats go unnoticed, but the best tactic is exactly what Bernard and Rudolph did: get big.

“Hold your arms up, hold your coat up, make noise, back away, don’t run away,” he said. “In the rare occurrence where you might end up in an attack with a lion, you want to fight back” with sticks, fists or anything else available.

He said some people want the DOW to kill or move the cat but that right now there’s no reason to do that.

Haskins said younger or smaller people are at higher risk, so parents should stick with their children while they hike.

Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos said the close encounter would end the athletes’ trips up the hill.

“For us, we’re going to restrict athletes from being up on Emerald Mountain at all right now,” he said.

“Hopefully, this will be resolved by spring.”

Comments

mtroach 4 years, 9 months ago

This cat has been seen for a couple of months now, I wonder how Rick thinks the interaction between humans and the Quarry cat will be resolved?

I for one hope the Quarry cat can survive it's continued interactions with us humans, and wonder if the city's P&Rec. will step up and restrict use on Emerald to perserve habatit for this cat before a bad interaction brings about the demise of this cat.

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disraeligear 4 years, 9 months ago

Jim Haskins will tell you you could encounter a cat at any Routt County trailhead, and we need to remember this. We also need to remember that this animal has a full right to roam these areas - just use some common sense and share the woods...

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thedudeabides 4 years, 9 months ago

Resolve this??? Maybe Mr DeVos can start by realizing that these cats have called this area home far longer than any of us. Obviously these runners were educated about what steps to take in case of a run-in with a cougar. The encounters on Emerald directly correlate to the shear numbers of people who recreate there. I'm sure there are plenty of other cats in this area who have had their eyes pealed on all of us at some time. As far as resolve goes...If you are going to recreate in an area know to be the home of large predators, carry pepper spray or stay at home. Education is a far better solution than the eradication of these magnificent animals.

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runnerbikerdriver44 4 years, 9 months ago

I have to ask, why is it that we have had very few encounters with this cat prior to new trails being built up around the quarry? We use to run up there all the time for dryland training, and never had a problem with this cat. Now this new trail is put in, and the cat is popping up more a more. I think it has to be more than just a coincidence.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 9 months ago

When I die, I am coming back as a mountain lion and I am going to live along the Spring Creek trail where the pickings are good.

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seeuski 4 years, 9 months ago

If I saw that cat I would be one of the Steamboat Runners!!!!

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cara marrs 4 years, 9 months ago

Very happy to see the DOW and residents on the side of leaving this cat in peace, its his/her habitat. In Colorado we forget a little about predators b/c of the lack of grizzlies, etc. When your in places like Montana you pay attention when your biking/running in certain areas, we are just being reminded of the presence of wildlife and hopefully everyone will remain respectful.

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upstream 4 years, 9 months ago

Good job on the part of the coaches in giving the athletes a heads up about the possibility of big cats on emerald and on the part of the athletes in behaving appropriately. Sounds like all parties went on their merry way without incident- 'Don't go onto emerald alone and don't blow it when or if you encounter one of the feline inhabitants' is the take home lesson so nicely demonstrated here. Now why would we ask the DOW to "move or kill" the cats? That is straight up crazy talk. We don't ask that sharks be "moved or killed" so we can surf and dive without seeing them...we take reasonable precautions and accept the risks involved in the activities we ELECT to pursue- another important take home lesson.

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