A hungry young mountain lion entered a Chaffee County home Thursday afternoon, killing a dog and briefly trapping a mother and her two children inside the house, the Colorado Division of Wildlife reported.
Wildlife officers were able to tranquilize the lion, which appeared to be significantly underweight for its age, according to DOW Area Wildlife Manager Jim Aragon. The animal was euthanized.
It is extremely rare for mountain lions to enter a building. "We will know more after we get the results of the necropsy, but this animal was not demonstrating normal behavior," Aragon said.
The incident began just after 4 p.m. when the lion chased a small dog through a pet door into the home, about nine miles northwest of Salida.
Michelle Bese and two children, ages two and five, were in the house when the lion entered. The 2-year-old was asleep in a bedroom, and the 5-year-old and Bese were sitting at the kitchen table when the animal came into the house. There were also four other small dogs in the home.
Bese said that at first she thought it might be a coyote, but realized it was a mountain lion when one of the dogs confronted it. Grabbing the 5-year-old, she ran into the back bedroom where the younger child was asleep.
She shut the door behind her and called 911.
Chaffee County sheriff's deputies helped the woman and her children escape through a bedroom window. They also opened the home's front and rear doors, hoping the lion would leave on its own.
"I looked in a bedroom window and could see a dog which I believed to be dead," said Aragon. "The lion was in the same room, so I pounded on the window and side of the house in an attempt to get the lion to leave through one of the open doors."
After several other attempts to get the lion to leave, Aragon a wildlife officer and sherriff's deputy entered the house through the back bedroom window. The lion was in a room directly across the hall.
"We cracked the door open wide enough to see the lion and were able to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart," Aragon said.
"We were able to locate four of the five dogs and get them transported to a vet clinic," said Aragon. The fifth was later discovered hiding in the home.
All of the dogs, which included a Jack Russell Terrier and four Shih-Tzu, received wounds during the encounter. One dog eventually died, and two others were seriously injured.
The young male lion, which is believed to be about a year and half old, only weighed about 40 pounds. "A healthy lion of that age should be closer to 60 pounds," said Aragon.
Its remains will be sent to a DOW lab in Fort Collins for analysis.