Coloradans are 85 times more likely to win the state lottery as they are to be attacked by a cougar.
However, people living in the foothills near Boulder are twice as likely to be attacked by a cougar as to win the lottery - but still have only one chance in 2.2 million of being attacked by a lion.So says Jim Halfpenny, a research associate at the University of Colorado.
Halfpenny made his comments to more than 200 mountain lion researchers and federal, state, and local officials from 13 Western states and two Canadian provinces at a mountain lion-human interaction symposium here.
The computerized data were gathered by Halfpenny, Michael Sanders of Boulder County Parks and Kristin McGrath, a researcher at the University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, to track lion trends.
"In our study of 398 mountain lion-human encounters along the Front Range (of Colorado's Rocky Mountains) dating back to 1964, we found the number of incidents are on the rise; they are being reported closer to towns and cities; occur year-round rather than just during the winter; and more are coming during daylight hours," Halfpenny said.
The data also are being analyzed to see whether vocalizations by lions may be a key to intentions.
"We found growls, snarls, moans and hissing sounds were warnings, while hissing and spitting were followed by attacks," he said.
One question Halfpenny said he's often asked is whether dogs prevent attacks.
"In 37 interactions, we found that, 68 percent of the time, the lion remained the dominant animal; in 59 percent, the lion attacked the dog, and 41 percent of the attacks were fatal to the dog," he said. "Only 11 percent of the time were dogs dominant."
Paul Beier, a wildlife researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, agreed with Halfpenny's assessment of the low danger of being hurt by a lion.
"We found in the last 100 years, the death rate per year from lion attacks is 0.1, while it's three per year for black widow spiders, 12 for rattlesnakes, 20 for domestic dogs, 40 for bee stings and 80 from lightning," Beier said.