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Bayfield hunter encounters mountain lion: ‘Be good, kitty’

Video shows cougar crouched behind rock before walking away
A mountain lion silently watched Steve Shively from about 20 yards away while he was scouting for elk in the San Juan National Forest on Sunday.

A Bayfield hunter’s video of a mountain lion, sitting silently 20 yards from him, has gained national media attention.

“Hold on there kitty. I see you,” said Steve Shively, a resident near Bayfield, in the video. “Be good, kitty.”

Shively’s encounter was less than one week after a Utah jogger shared a video, which gained international attention, of a mountain lion following him and occasionally lunging. While Shively saw the animal in the San Juan National Forest near Bayfield, the town has also reported mountain lion sightings within its limits.

For Shively, the encounter was a tense few minutes.

“After changing the memory cards and rustling around in the leaves, I stood up and turned around slowly scanning the woods behind me,” Shively said in a Facebook post. “Suddenly, I spotted this motionless mountain lion crouched down behind a rock ready to pounce on me.”

Shively was scouting for elk in a remote area of the San Juan National Forest on Sunday when he saw the mountain lion. His recording shows the lion sitting behind a rock before slowly walking away into the forest.

In an interview, he said the mountain lion snuck right up on him, that was the “wow” factor.

“That was way too close, too close for comfort,” he said.

Since then, state and national news outlets have picked up the story.

“It’s crazy,” Shively said. “I had somebody from a news outlet from New York contact me. I was like, ‘Wow, this has gone far and wide.’”

Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Southwest Region, said the incident was rare. It was probably a very scary situation, but it is unlikely the mountain lion was stalking Shively.

“It was a lion being a lion,” Lewandowski said. “The chances of this guy coming across a mountain lion are extremely low, but there was nothing unusual about the animal’s behavior.”

Humans look strange to mountain lions, which prey on deer and elk, he said. Walking upright and wearing bright clothes – humans don’t look like prey to the big cats. Any sort of attack on a human is extremely rare.

“Mountain lions are ambush predators. If they’re stalking someone, it’s unlikely anyone would see it before maybe something bad happened,” he said. “Nothing bad happened, thankfully.”

Colorado is prime habitat for mountain lions, but it’s rare to see them. There are about 6,000 to 7,000 mountain lions in all of Colorado, a low number when compared to the state’s 500,000 deer population.

During mountain lion encounters, people should look big, talk firmly and loudly and throw sticks, rocks or other objects toward the animal. Back away slowly, but don’t turn and run, Lewandowski said.

Keeping deer or other typical prey away from a person’s property can also help. Mountain lions are active from dusk to dawn, so if hiking during those times, people should go with a partner.

“The video shouldn’t discourage people from going hiking and exploring the woods,” Lewandowski said

smullane@durangoherald.com

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