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Big cats stalk homes in Rockies

The number of human-mountain lion encounters has increased, and some Colorado residents are fearful.

Published July 14, 2006

EVERGREEN, Colo. - Carrie Ann Warner has repeatedly called authorities about the stalker that has peered into her son's bedroom window at night, killed the family cat and even chased the family into their home in the wooded hills west of Denver.

The stalker is a mountain lion, and it has eluded wildlife officers, traps baited with roadkill and even a motion-detection camera.

"I've reached my wit's end. I don't know what to do," said Warner, whose family has built a steel enclosure around their back porch.

Reports of mountain lions roaming neighborhoods and killing family pets have cropped up from suburban Denver to Fort Collins, one of the most heavily populated stretches in the Rockies. In April, a lion attacked a 7-year-old boy and broke his jaw in Boulder before it was chased off.

The number of human-lion encounters nationwide has increased from about two each year in the 1970s to between six and 10, said Paul Beier, a conservation biology professor at Northern Arizona University.

Still, mountain lion fatalities are rare - only 17 nationwide since 1890. The most recent fatal attack is believed to be in January 2004 in California. Ken Logan, a nationally recognized mountain lion biologist, said science doesn't support the premise that lions are starting to view humans as dinner.

Wildlife officers are trying to educate people about how to get along with the big cats as development pushes farther into areas the animals once had to themselves.

But some Colorado residents say they are living in fear. "I don't feel like we're living in a natural wilderness. Nothing about it is natural," resident Tracey English said.

[Last modified July 14, 2006, 02:27:01]

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