Much of Colorado, including the Front Range, is prime mountain lion country. This simple fact is a surprise to many residents and visitors. These large, powerful predators have always lived here, preying on plentiful deer and playing an important role in the ecosystem.
|Photo above: Two mountain lions resting on a ledge, sheltered from the heat of the day. (Photo courtesy of the USFWS.) |
You may live in or recreate in lion country. Like any wildlife, mountain lions can be dangerous. With a better understanding of mountain lions and their habitat, we can coexist with these magnificent animals.
The mountain lion, commonly known as cougar, panther, or puma, exists only in the Western Hemisphere and is one of North America's biggest cats. In Colorado, population estimates range from 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions. A lion's natural life span is probably about 12 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity. Lions are very powerful and usually kill large animals, such as deer and elk. Natural enemies include other large predators such as bears, lions, and wolves. They also fall victim to accidents, disease, road hazards, and people.
The status of the mountain lion in Colorado evolved from that of varmint, on which a $50 bounty was offered from 1929, to designation as a big game species in 1965. The change in legal status reflected growing public appreciation and concern for sound mountain lion management.