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MEEKER I After eluding its captors for a couple of hours, a young mountain lion was corralled last week at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds.
“I think that one was harder than usual,” Jon Wangnild of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said of the capture of the mountain lion Oct. 20.
The mountain lion was estimated to be about six months old and was presumed to be orphaned.
“It appeared to be in good shape, but it was about 15 to 20 pounds underweight and malnourished,” Wangnild said. “It was actually eating a raccoon along Sulphur Creek when some Redi Services guys saw the lion run into the county shop equipment yard.”
The Meeker Police Department, town animal control officer Dixie Jones and the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office assisted the DOW with the capture.
“Once we realized it was a kitten, the human safety threat was pretty much gone,” Wangnild said. “It would have been simple to go ahead and shoot it if it was a dangerous lion. But in this situation, it wasn’t a safety threat.”
Because of the proximity to the new elementary school, the officers involved in capturing the mountain lion took extra precautions.
“That is always going to be our response, especially in the proximity of the school,” Wangnild said.
Once the lion was captured, it was put into a crate and taken to the Meeker Animal Shelter for inspection. Then it was transported to a wildlife refuge in Silt for further evaluation.
“She (the operator of the wildlife refuge) looked at it the following day and, other than being underweight, it was in good shape,” Wangnild said.
Officers used a jab stick to tranquilize the lion, at least partially.
“We only got about half of the dosage in it, which is why it was groggy, but not out,” Wangnild said.
The young lion was taken to the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation in rural Garfield County. The refuge is run by Nanci Limbach.
“She’ll keep it there until it’s about a year old and then turn it loose. She feeds them roadkill deer and she stays away from them, so they stay wild. She keeps them isolated (from people). It’s not a zoo-type environment,” Wangnild said. “She released two lion kittens I took to her about two years ago. That’s the plan for this one and a kitten I picked up in the spring.”
Wangnild said the mountain lion that was captured last week and the kitten he recovered last spring will be released next spring.
“We may actually try to release those up by Dinosaur National Monument,” Wangnild said.