A reader just shared this photo she took a couple of weeks ago of what appears to be a cougar paw print in the mud on the White Rock Rim Trail. UPDATE: Another reader just let us know that this is actually a dog paw as cougars do not show the nail imprints. Courtesy photo
Department of Game and Fish officers are using foot snares to try to catch a dangerous cougar that has killed at least two dogs and attacked another dog this month in Los Alamos.
Snares are set near Ranch School and Acid Canyon trails. More are being set down the canyon off of East Fork trail. The snare traps are set off the trails about 30 to 50 yards. Signs are placed at the gates and in the vicinity of the trap sites.
The Los Alamos Police Department is working with New Mexico Game & Fish and county officials to keep the public safe and away from Walnut and Pueblo canyon where the snares will be placed. Signs will be posted in these areas warning citizens of the snares.
Foot snares are effective in catching cougars and pose little or no danger to people or their pets. Please do not tamper with the snares.
All of the cougar attacks and at least five sightings occurred in an approximately 1-mile area near the county airport.
The cougar reportedly killed two beagles in separate attacks earlier this month and attacked a fourth dog May 14. It was sighted and photographed by a video camera May 18 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.
May 20, the cougar reportedly attempted to attack a dog in a wire kennel and pulled the dog and kennel off a deck.
The department is advising area residents to keep pets and children inside in the early mornings, evenings and at night until the cougar is caught.
The Department of Game and Fish is responsible for managing large predators and occasionally is called to deal with cougars, wolves and bears when there is a public safety risk. Wild animals, especially predators, can be very dangerous whether they are encountered in the wild or in residential areas.
Anyone who sees a cougar, wolf or bear in a residential area is encouraged to call Los Alamos Dispatch at 505.662.8222, or in an emergency, 911.
Here are some ways to protect yourself, your family and wildlife from unwanted encounters with cougars and other large predators:
- Do not feed wildlife. Use native plants, not non-natives, so as to not attract deer, which are the primary prey of lions. Remember, it is common for predators to follow prey.
- Do not let your pets roam around outside. Bring them in at night. If you keep pets outside, provide a kennel with a secure top. Do not feed pets outside where the food can attract cougars or other smaller animals that cougars prey upon. Store and dispose of all garbage securely.
- Closely supervise children. Make sure they are home before dusk and not outside before dawn. Make lots of noise if you are outside during times when cougars are most active — dusk to dawn. Teach your children about cougars and what they should do if they encounter one.
- Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding cover for cougars, especially around areas where children play. Make it difficult for a cougar to approach unseen.
- Install outdoor lighting, especially in areas where you walk, so you can see a cougar if one were present.
- Close off open spaces below porches or decks.
- Place all livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close the doors to all outbuildings so that an inquisitive lion is prevented from going inside to look around.
Cougar encounters and attacks are extremely rare, but if you do encounter a cougar in the wild or in town:
- Stop or back away slowly if you can do so safely.
- Stay calm if you come upon a lion. Talk calmly yet firmly to it and move slowly.
- Immediately pick up all children off the ground and tell them to stay calm.
- Do not run from a cougar as fleeing behavior may trigger the instinct of the cougar to attack.
- Face the cougar — do not turn your back — remain in an upright position and look as large as possible (raise your arms, open up your coat, if your wearing one).
- Carry a walking stick and use it to defend yourself by keeping it between you and the cougar. If the cougar approaches closer or behaves aggressively, arm yourself with the stick, throw rocks or sticks at the cougar, and speak louder and more firmly to the lion. Convince the lion you are dominant and a danger to it.
- Fight back if a cougar attacks you. Use any possible object within reach as a weapon, such as rocks, sticks, jackets, a backpack or your bare hands. Cougars have been driven away by prey that fights back. Stay standing and if you fall down try to get back up on your feet.
For more information about cougars and living around large predators, visit the department website and check out the publication, Living with Large Predators in New Mexico.