Trails closed after puma kills sheep
Colorado National Monument officials have closed a hiking trail after more than a dozen sheep were killed by a mountain lion last week.
The entire eight-mile stretch of Black Ridge Trail between the Saddlehorn Visitor Center and the Upper Liberty Cap Trail junction is closed until further notice. The closure also includes the small CCC Trail between the Black Ridge Trail and the Upper Monument Canyon trail head.
The mountain lion activity was not on the trail but on public and private land just outside the park.
The closure came after a Glade Park rancher reported 14 sheep killed over a four-day period that started July 16, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region Wildlife Director Ty Smith said.
Tracks identified at the scene and the manner in which the sheep were killed convinced officials a mountain lion was at work, Smith said.
“It’s a female lion with a couple young kittens and she’s teaching them to hunt,” he said.
All 14 sheep were confined in a pen when the mountain lion attacked, including 11 that were killed sometime during the night July 19 or early morning July 20, Smith said.
Hunters tracked the puma and her cubs to an area where she stored a cache of deer located less than a half-mile “as the crow flies” from the trails, he said.
If hunters succeed in locating the cats, all three will be shot and killed.
So far, the animals have eluded their trackers even though two hunters and as many as eight dogs were on their trail at one point.
“She’s tricky,” Smith said.
Monument officials decided to close the trail because of its proximity to the cache. Mountain lions tend to prey on deer so officials felt closing the trail would ensure the safety of visitors.
“Our plan at this time is to keep it closed for a week and then re-evaluate the situation,” said Karla Tanner, chief of interpretation and eduction at the monument.
At this point, there is no indication the cat poses an immediate threat to humans, CPW’s Smith said.
There is still close to 40 miles of trails on the Monument that visitors can still enjoy, Tanner said. Hikers are encouraged to hike in groups of three or more and make noise while hiking. If anyone does see a mountain lion, officials say they should walk away slowly and not turn their backs toward the animal.
Staff writer Sam Waters contributed to this report.