A Morrison family was disheartened to discover that their two prized llamas had been killed at their home April 12 by a mountain lion.
The animals were nowhere in sight when Larry Cummings went to feed them early that morning in a pen about 400 feet from the family’s house. When he searched the property, he discovered they had been killed.
“They were born and raised here, trained here, we showed them — they have just been wonderful animals,” Susan Cummings said Monday. “It’s just hard to get used to the idea that they are gone.”
A Colorado Division of Wildlife official who investigated the scene believes that a single mountain lion killed the animals.
The pen, with a loafing shed, was enclosed with a 6-foot fence. Neither animal had been taken from the location after the attack, though one had been buried near the fence.
Susan Cummings was concerned that there may have been more than one cat on her property during the incident, one of which might have been young and inexperienced. She had heard reports of two lions traveling together near Evergreen.
But wildlife manager Todd Schmidt said the predator was most likely a lone adult cat, she said.
“He and my husband went over the tracks, and the conclusion is there was one.”
A notice from a resident on a bulletin board in Indian Hills noted that two lions had been spotted together in a residential area there, and the note listed other sightings, including one of a deer killed and eaten 25 feet from a family’s home.
But spotting cats together is not unusual, according to DOW spokesperson Jennifer Churchill.
“Lions can have kittens all year round; it is possible to be traveling (together) almost any time of year,” she said.
While female lions do show their cubs how to hunt, mountain lions are not herd animals, like dogs, and do not hunt in packs, Churchill explained.
According to Churchill, the number of lion sightings and encounters this year is not out of the ordinary.
While deer are the primary food source for mountain lions, animals in fenced enclosures make for easy prey, she said. Wildlife officials recommend that pens be covered to better protect pets and livestock.
“We have had them go after a miniature horse, llamas or livestock. It’s not totally unheard of, especially in rural areas,” Churchill said.
The Cummingses have lived in the South Turkey Creek neighborhood since 1994. They have owned llamas since 1996 and once had a larger herd, but that number, in recent times, had been reduced to two.
Susan Cummings speculates that one of her llamas, which was by nature overprotective of the other, may have tried to fight the predator instead of flee.
She is disappointed that the family did not hear a commotion and their dog did not bark to alert them, she said.
“I felt very powerless; I feel we could have done something. I am sure every animal lover feels that way.”