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Big cat down

DOW vows better training after mountain lion episode

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State wildlife officials will improve their training for handling mountain lions that wander into residential areas following the killing of one last week in Colorado Springs.

Responding to a 911 call from a homeowner on June 6, wildlife officials yelled and threw rocks in attempts to rouse the 130-pound cat from under a hedge in a Briargate backyard in northeast Colorado Springs. They hoped to direct it toward the mountains, but the cat wouldn't budge for several hours.

As dusk approached, a wildlife officer fired rubber buckshot at the lion, breaking its leg. So state Division of Wildlife officials decided to kill the lion rather than risk an unpredictable outcome.

"Mountain lions can be real dangerous if they are injured," said Michael Seraphin, a DOW spokesman.

A tranquilizer gun would have been ideal, he added, but it was ruled out because the hedge was so thick that the officer could not get a clean shot.

However, a meeting Monday afternoon between wildlife officers and their boss, southeastern Colorado regional director Dan Prenzlow, has resulted in a commitment to re-train officers in the use of gun-propelled tranquilizer darts, rubber buckshot and bean bags.

"Did we do everything 100 percent correct?" Seraphin said. "In hindsight, maybe not."

Shootings of mountain lions by the division are rare but appear to be rising. Since 1996, wildlife officials have killed 17 mountain lions in Colorado. Four of the shootings occurred last year alone.

The killing of the lion comes about a month after Colorado Springs police shot five buffalo that escaped from a West Side meatpacking plant. After that incident, a city report called on police to communicate better with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, because the zoo has tranquilizer guns.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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