Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins, of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, talks with Steamboat Springs resident Kayla Baumgartner on Tuesday after a neighbor reported seeing a mountain lion in the area. The neighbor reported seeing the lion Monday afternoon, and there were reports that it was seen again on Tuesday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins, of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, talks with Steamboat Springs resident Kayla Baumgartner on Tuesday after a neighbor reported seeing a mountain lion in the area. The neighbor reported seeing the lion Monday afternoon, and there were reports that it was seen again on Tuesday.

Report of alleged mountain lion sighting causes scare at Steamboat schools

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Mountain lion safety tips

Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins shares some helpful tips to stay safe in an encounter with a mountain lion.

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Charlie Beurskens, left, and Finn O'Connell head home from Steamboat Springs Middle School on June 7 using the trail that passes through Butcherknife Canyon. Steamboat Springs School District notified parents Tuesday that a mountain lion was seen on the trail, which is used as part of the Safe Routes to School program.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include more details about the reported sightings and comments from Jim Haskins, of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Two reported mountain lion sightings in Butcherknife Canyon caused a scare at Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School on Tuesday.

As a result, school officials refused to allow students to go home via the popular Butcherknife Trail that leads from the schools’ shared Strawberry Park campus to the neighborhoods around Old Town Steamboat.

“We’re trying to just divert everyone away from Butcherknife,” middle school Principal Tim Bishop said Tuesday afternoon as he spoke with curious students about the alleged sightings.

The schools were on particularly high alert after the second reported sighting was made just before classes let out for the day. Staff members took up watch around the campus.

The first reported sighting was made earlier in the day and prompted an email to district staff and families.

The 10:15 a.m. email to parents read: “The district has been notified that a mountain lion has been seen on Butcherknife Trail. Please take all appropriate precautions for yourself and your children’s safety. The Division of Wildlife has been contacted in connection with this sighting.”

The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is looking into the reported sightings.

Area Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins said some of the reports were secondhand and still are being sorted out. He thinks the report that came in shortly before school let out Tuesday actually was related to a sighting Tuesday morning. And the call to the school Tuesday morning may have been related to a sighting at noon Monday by a woman who lives on East Maple Street, Haskins said.

He said the woman said the animal was in a neighbor’s yard, was “smaller than a pony,” was light yellow and had a long tail.

“It sounds like a typical lion encounter out here,” Haskins said while also acknowledging that officials aren’t yet sure whether the lion reports are accurate.

Nevertheless, Haskins said he will assume there is a mountain lion in that area. He said there are circumstances when wildlife officials would attempt to remove a lion from near a school, such as repeated sightings or aggressive behavior.

“This doesn’t rise to that level at all,” Haskins said.

Haskins said lions have been spotted in the Butcherknife Canyon area before, and people who are concerned about a lion in the area should travel in groups.

Mountain lions live throughout the area and have been spotted frequently on Mount Werner and Emerald Mountain.

“This is just a sighting,” Haskins said. “It’s all we’ve got right now.”

Anyone who thinks they have seen a mountain lion is asked to call the Division of Parks and Wildlife’s local office at 970-870-2197.

Middle school staff member Ruth Dombrowski said additional parents would be in the Butcherknife area Wednesday morning to help ensure a safe route for kids walking or biking to school.

“They just should use precaution until the DOW verifies the sightings,” Dombrowski said.

Mountain lion safety tips:

■ When you walk or hike in mountain lion country, go in groups and make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea; it can be used to ward off a lion. Make sure children are close to you and within your sight at all times. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.

■ Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

■ Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly yet firmly to it and move slowly.

■ Stop or back away slowly, if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.

■ Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you're wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won't panic and run.

■ If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or any item you quickly can grab without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to the lion.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Kristen Feiges 2 years, 5 months ago

Please DOW, relocate the mountain lion that is so close to town - Butcherknife/Emerald. This is way too close for comfort. Don't let one of our children (or anyone!) be a victim or an example.

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jk 2 years, 5 months ago

What I didn't see any calls for relocating the elk, deer, or bears in the area. Only comments about how we took their home from them. Remember we live in a wild place!

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chickadee 2 years, 5 months ago

those mountain lion tips come in handy in dealing with the local cougars too.

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Matt Helm 2 years, 5 months ago

There are mountain lions all over, but most people will never see one. I have been lucky enough to see a couple in this area. People need to realize that they are around, and teach their kids to be aware!

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sledneck 2 years, 5 months ago

JK, Don't you know anything? The difference is: "It's all about the children." who are all winners... who must be educated to the fullest extent of our financial capability... in a medical marijuana and cat-free school zone... and who need cat and drug free recreational opportunities to fill in their spare time... when they're not running from mt.lions.

Wait, I've got it. Use the mt lion as part of the school fitness program, or to see who makes the track team?

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jk 2 years, 5 months ago

Sled, let me first say that you have provided me with another good laugh! I to believe this would be a great PE program for the kids.Maybe they can split their time shoveling snow so the deer and elk can eat in the winter, with a little cardio running from the Mt Lions and Bears in the spring and fall. They are all winners!!

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Kevin Chapman 2 years, 5 months ago

Ask the folks down in Idaho Springs about mt lions around their schools. They will get habituated to people if they feel they are not a threat, and eventually will attack something smaller, you know, like a child. Hunt it and kill it i say. It's not like Mt Lions are on the endangered species list. We are the masters of our domain, don't be passive until someone gets mauled to death.

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sledneck 2 years, 5 months ago

Gives the "no child left behind" concept a whole new meaning, no?

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John Fielding 2 years, 5 months ago

. Reminds me of the guy who told his friend that the first thing he would do when confronted with a grizzly was to check his shoelaces. "To outrun the Bear?" his friend asked. "No, to outrun you", he replied. .

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anonymousp 2 years, 5 months ago

Funny, Sledneck! But SteamboatNuc has a point. Do we have to wait until a child gets hurt? I say that the mountain lion should be caught and relocated. I talked to the Wildlife Office about seeing the big mountain lion in our back yard eyeing our dog on our deck in late September. They gave us pamphlets to pass around to our neighbors and have also put up a sign at the neighborhood entrance. There have been at least 2 other sightings in September and one in Oct. near Hillside Dr. The cats on both sides of our house were taken in late August. (We heard the frightening sound of the second cat’s demise outside our window at 4:30 AM on August 24). This mountain lion is getting way too comfortable in our neighborhoods. Please consider removing him and re-locating him so that no children are attacked.

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