By John Colson
Sopris Sun Correspondent
Carbondale police shot and killed a diseased mountain lion on Jan. 24, after the animal had been spotted lying by the Crystal River under the north bridge along North Bridge Drive in the River Valley Ranch subdivision.
No one other than the lion was hurt in the incident, which occurred at 2:40 p.m.
According to a statement from Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling, the lion was “a very sick cat” and was not able to move under its own power.
“It was a tom cat about 1-2 years old,” said the statement from the chief. “It had mange and was very malnourished. The cat had sores all over its body.”
The statement reported that the cat did not move even though police officers were standing on the bridge “only 15 feet away” from the lion’s location.
“There was a possibility that the cat had been hit by a vehicle,” the police statement continued, “however, that was not the contributing factor of its condition.”
Police contacted the Colorado Parks & Wildlife division, and were instructed to shoot the animal and put it out of its misery.
Police reported that wildlife officials felt that “there was no concern that the cat would infect humans or other animals.”
Two witnesses to the incident, who wished not to be identified, said they were out walking when they spotted police cars on the bridge and stopped to check it out.
“He wasn’t moving, but he was alive,” one witness told The Sopris Sun. “We kind of figured maybe he had gotten hit by a car and gone down there to die. He was a beautiful animal and he was scary, because he was very big.”
Another witness said the cat’s head was “the size of a dinner plate.”
A search of the Internet for “mange” and “mountain lions” turned up a report on the “Urban Carnivores” website about a “mange epizootic” (the wildlife equivalent of an epidemic) that decimated the population of bobcats in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California starting in 2002.
Among the concerns expressed in the article were indications that a type of rat poison was found in many bobcats that died of severe mange, although the report indicated a lack of certainty about the link between the poison and the illness suffered by the cats.
The article also expressed concern that the disease could spread from the infected bobcat population to the region’s population of mountain lions.
The article also noted that, prior to 2002, “notoedric mange” or mange specific to big cats, had rarely been reported and “was considered a typically benign disease for wild cats.”
At the local Parks and Wildlife office in Glenwood Springs, administrative assistant Karla Ferguson said that the wildlife officer who handled the case, Craig Wescoatt, reported that the animal was infested with parasites, which may have lead to its severe malnourishment.
No tests were conducted on the animal, and it’s corpse had been destroyed by Tuesday, Ferguson said.