The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 7 - 10/14/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Big cat likes roaming up and down Pine Creek.
by Jennifer Binning
With the disappearance of 3-year-old Jaryd Atadero west of Fort Collins, Colorado last week fresh in people's minds, we began to wonder about mountain lions in Pinedale. We were surprised to learn a mountain lion may have taken up residence along Pine Creek. In the past few months, several locals have reported sightings or have had close encounters with the feline.
According to Pinedale Game and Fish Warden Duke Early, the cat seems to be hanging around in the woods along Pine Creek, and several homeowners have reported seeing it.
About six weeks ago, Dennis Schroeder, who lives on the old Wilson Ranch on the Soda Lake Road, was outside in his yard cooking at dusk. When he walked back inside to eat dinner, his dog "put up a fuss," barking incessantly. When Dennis looked out his back door, he saw a mountain lion sitting in his yard, not very far away from where he had just been standing. "I don't know how long he had been there," Mr. Schroeder said, and the lion took off when he went outside to get a closer look.
A few weeks later, Kelly Winters had an experience he will not soon forget. The morning after his daughters' slumber party on September 17, the Winters' dog, a huge, 130 pound Great Pyrenees, began to bark and would not stop. According to his wife DeLona, Kelly walked outside to get into his truck at about 5:30 in the morning when he "looked up and saw a figure" of a cat near his truck. DeLona recalls she heard Kelly yell, "Get out of here!" and the dog went berserk, dashing between the lion and his master. The next thing she heard was the bone-chilling scream of a mountain lion and the rapid pounding of her husband's boots on the porch, followed by the slamming of the door. "There is a mountain lion out there!" Kelly breathlessly exclaimed to his startled wife.
DeLona notes the dog seems much more alert now, and they are very careful about letting their children play outside alone, especially near dusk.
This is not the first year that Pinedale has had a resident mountain lion along Pine Creek. According to Julie Early, the Animal Control Officer for the Town of Pinedale, lions have been seen occasionally in or near the town for years.
In 1995, Ms. Early found lion tracks in a backyard on Shanley Street in Redstone, and at about the same time, a family who also lives on Shanley called her at 2:00 in the morning to report a mother mountain lion up a power pole across the street with her cubs.
About three years ago, Billy Pape called to report a lion had been in his dumpster behind the Patio Grill. He knew who the offender was due to the "big fat calling card" that was left outside the dumpster.
More recently, Tom Murdock who lives on South Tyler, not far from the other reported sightings, called to report "real fresh" tracks in his yard. Another neighbor on Shanley, Doris Burzlander, also reported huge, "grapefruit-sized" paw prints in her yard last February. The prints were so clear, said Julie, you could see each pad and toe nail imprinted in the snow.
Ms. Early said she knows there is "definitely one" mountain lion around town, and it is probably a female with one or two, year-old kittens. She also says she has been trapping fewer feral cats around town, and she is not seeing nearly as many fawns as usual. "I think people that jog early in the morning, and go on early morning walks need to be on their guard," says Julie. DeLona Winters agrees, saying she is much more aware of what is going on around her when she runs in the morning.
Game Warden Duke Early feels people should be aware there is a mountain lion in town and act accordingly, but not to become paranoid about it. Keep a close eye on small animals and don't allow young children to play outside completely unsupervised. If a mountain lion presents itself, Duke says to make yourself as physically imposing as possible. Puff out your jacket and raise your arms, then back away from the animal. Never run from a lion. This typical prey reaction could cause the cat to chase and possibly attack a person.
Jarlath Mortensen met a mountain lion while hunting this fall, and left the encounter with a pounding heart and spectacular memories. Ms. Mortensen was tracking an orphaned calf elk in the mountains when she came upon a lion that was apparently also tracking the calf. At first, Jarlath was intrigued with the magnificent animal, until she realized this was an enormous predator and she was invading its territory. Making herself as big as possible, Ms. Mortensen spoke to the animal as it sat down and watched her. Soon the lion grew weary of Jarlath's antics, and proceeded to lie down, never taking its eyes off of her. Jarlath began to slowly back away from the cat and stepped off of the trail, so the cat could walk past her, but the animal only looked at her quizzically. Finally, the cat turned, shot Jarlath a look over one shoulder, and began to walk away, pausing only to look again over the other shoulder and scratch its back in the dirt. Jarlath quickly returned to her husbands' side, where John began to tell her about the adventure he had just experienced. After quietly waiting her turn, Jarlath proceeded to floor her husband with her cat tale. For Jarlath, the experience was a once in a lifetime event, which she will always remember with both terror and fascination.
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