When there’s a mountain lion in Boulder’s city limits, news travels fast. It’s not that we’re unaccustomed to seeing wildlife. Wildlife sightings are commonplace in both our open space and our neighborhoods. But news of a mountain lion in the vicinity is enough to quicken anyone’s pulse.
Boulder’s largest carnivore generally stays completely under our radar. This is no accident, of course. Mountain lions are adept at evading humans and not drawing attention to themselves. We know they’re out there, but we rarely see them. They might see us, but they’re generally not interested. And that’s a good thing.
Living in harmony with these powerful predators is critical to their existence and to ours. Mountain lions don’t understand city limits. They move freely to where they can find ample food, water, and shelter. We live in their habitat. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we can coexist safely. They’re already doing everything they can to stay out of our way, and the rest is up to us. Let’s learn more about Boulder’s mighty mountain lions.
Mountain Lions, sometimes called cougars or pumas, are found primarily in western North America. Their range stretches from the Canadian Yukon all the way down to the Southern Andes. They are solitary animals that require a lot of space. Adults are 6 to 9 feet long and typically 90 to 200 pounds. Their diet consists of mammals large and small, with deer being at the top of their list.
Mountain lions rarely attack people. In Colorado, there have been only two confirmed deaths caused by mountain lions. They will, however, attack and kill pets on occasion. Those who live on the west side of town are advised to keep a close eye on dogs and cats, particularly at dawn or dusk when lions are hunting for food. If you do encounter a mountain lion, follow these steps for your safety.
How many mountain lions do we have in Boulder? It’s very difficult to pin down exact numbers, but Kristin Cannon of Colorado Parks and Wildlife says, “Based on sighting reports, I know there is a female with two kittens in and out of North Boulder, along with another uncollared adult and potentially a collared female with at least one kitten.” (A number of local lions have been collared and are being tracked as part of the Front Range Mountain Lion Research Study.) There was also a collared female in University Hill last fall that was ill and had to be euthanized.
As far as local sightings go, Kristin says, “There seems to be an uptick in reported sightings over the last several weeks. Generally speaking, it seems like there is more mountain lion activity in winter months. This doesn’t mean that lions aren’t present in other months, just that this is when we see the most reports. This could be because the deer tend to concentrate closer to town in winter months.”
Mountain lions are our largest local predator and a critical part of our ecosystem in Boulder. Learning more about them helps us understand how to safely coexist with them. Conserving and protecting our open lands is key in this effort. If we can continue to give them plenty of space, they’ll continue to give us our space.