By Echo Menges
Early last week local farmer, Gayle Bradshaw, reported to the Sentinel that he believes a mountain lion attacked five of his quarter horses, which are kept in a pasture along the southern edge of Edina within the city limits. Bradshaw said he didn't see the attack but suspects a mountain lion because he's seen one in the area before and because of the injuries the horses sustained.
“When I first saw them they had injuries up on their backs and were bleeding pretty good. There are no bite marks on their legs. It’s up on their shoulders, their backs, around their necks. I think it probably happened sometime between Friday and Sunday (June 28-30). I've got some good medicine for them so they're healing up pretty well. The only signs I have is the visible damage they’ve done to the horses. And I’ve noticed my horses were grouping together tighter than they ever have before, since about two weeks before all this. ” said Bradshaw. “I saw a mountain lion last winter out here when we were hunting coyotes east of town.”
Injured Horses in Edina, MO - Photos taken on July 3, 2013, several days after injuries were sustained. The owner believes they were caused by a mountain lion.
Bradshaw did report the incident to Missouri Department of Conservation Agent for Knox County, Tyson Hartshorn, on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Heartshorn went to the pasture and looked at the injuries.
“In order for us to verify (a mountain lion) we’d have to have some sort of physical evidence we could get DNA from like hair on a fence, tracks. It’s been too many days since the injuries that we can’t collect that right now. Just looking at the wounds it does not look like a mountain lion. It could be a pack of dogs. I’d almost say (the injuries) could have been from a combination of things like a dog running them into a fence or debris like tree limbs. There is quite a bit of debris in this field. Definitely interesting. That one,” said Hartshorn pointing to the horse, which sustained the most injuries, “whatever happened to it, it tore it up good. I'd definitely keep a close eye on these horses.”
According to Edina Police Chief, Roger Waibel, there have been no reports of mountain lions in the City of Edina.
“We haven’t had any reports of any type of animals being mangled or attacked or anything like that,” said Chief Waibel, “with the exception of the pit bull attack here a while back and that was three dogs.”
According to Hartshorn there has never been a sighting of a mountain lion in Knox County, confirmed by MDC, and it is extremely rare for a mountain lion to attack a horse.
“I only know of one confirmed case a horse was attacked,” said Hartshorn. “It was in California.”
According to a report published by a Northern California daily newspaper, The Press Democrat, four horses were attacked by a mountain lion in Santa Rosa, CA, on April 22, 2008. According to the report, injuries to the horses ranged from “racked” claw marks to puncture wounds.
All four horses survived the attack and according to the owner, Mary Quinn, they worked together to fend off the mountain lion.
Quinn, who runs an animal rescue operation, says 12 years ago the same herd of rescued horses was attacked by a pack of domestic dogs, which she says helped to prepare them for the attack they sustained by what she believes was two young mountain lions in 2008. The incidents have given her first hand experience in both types of attack, dog and mountain lion.
“I was treated like a crazy lady in the beginning, but the wildlife agent who responded eventually agreed with me and confirmed that it was a mountain lion attack. It was only after I showed him a track I found near our fence line. I had to put an upside-down bucket over it to preserve it. We live on farm land and we live near a creek and that brings every kind of wildlife,” said Quinn. “Generally, when dogs attack the injuries will be underneath. Dogs bite underneath the chin, neck, back legs, stomach. With dogs, their bites turn into boils and swell. Some dogs like pit bulls bite and hang on while other dogs like German Shepherds scissor bite because they can’t hang on. Mountain lions use their feet. When a mountain lion attacks they latch on with their claws. When our horses were attacked by mountain lions some of their injuries were from each others hooves because they were literally kicking the mountain lion off of each other.”
Quinn did look at pictures of the injuries to Bradshaw’s horses and said she couldn’t say definitively if the injuries were caused by a mountain lion or not but did send The Edina Sentinel pictures of the injuries her horses sustained from the mountain lion attack in 2008, which she says are similar to the injuries on Bradshaw’s horses. Note: These photos are graphic in nature and may be offensive to some viewers.
According to Quinn, domestic dog attacks are also extremely dangerous and the domestic dog pack attack on her horses 12 years ago inspired her to focus her rescue efforts on canines.
“When dogs attack in a pack they get to a point. I like to call it the red zone because once they’re in that mode there’s no turning it off and there’s no backing them down,” said Quinn. “Dogs like pit bulls can be wonderful dogs, but in a pack they are extremely dangerous, especially males that haven't been neutered.” Note: These photos are graphic in nature and may be offensive to some viewers.
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Quinn said she's taken steps to better protect her horses and likes to keep tabs on the different types of animals that venture into her horse enclosure.
“I like to keep the ground around the trough wet so I can see what’s coming in the enclosure. I also have a wild burrow, which a wildlife specialist from Arizona told me to do. It hasn’t been easy having him, but I can tell you he’s been very effective at keeping the horses safe. Just their bray, the sound they make hee-haw, is very loud and scares everything, even me. The specialist also recommended a 12-foot enclosure to keep mountain lions out, but that won’t keep coyotes from digging underneath and it wasn’t feasible. Having a wild burro, we named him Father Francis, is what works for me. When Father Francis gets riled up the leader keeps the herd running and sometimes she'll bring them in on her own. Ever since (the mountain lion attack) happened it is unbelievable how tight the herd has become.”
Ken Logan, a Wildlife Researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, has been studying mountain lions for over three decades.
“I have been studying mountain lions for 32 years and in that time I have found only one horse who had been fed on by a lion and I can’t confirm that horse was killed by that lion,” said Logan. “I cannot tell you whether or not (what happened in Edina) was a lion attack. I would have to examine the horses and the area of the attack. The area has to be examined. It all hinges on the physical evidence present at the scene. That would be stuff like tracks, scat, hair, claw marks that can be matched to the pattern of a cougar, those sorts of things. It's sketchy because it hasn't been confirmed.”
According to Logan, though he's never seen evidence of one, a mountain lion attack on a horse is possible because the cats are big game hunters.
“Deer, elk, big horn sheep are food sources for them. They are capable of killing a 500 to 700 pound elk in a matter of seconds. They certainly are capable of taking down a large animal. They are very powerful cats. Do you have a lot of white tail deer in your area? It’s a natural prey. In a rural community goats, sheep and pigs are often prey animals for cougars,” said Logan. “There is evidence they have been migrating from the West. You can Google cougars in the Midwest and see some of the latest publications.”
According to the MDC website there has been 39 confirmed reports of mountain lions in Missouri since 1994. Of those is a report in Lewis County in 2000, which was confirmed by a video of the animal taken by a hunter who shot the video from a tree stand and two reports in Macon County, both reported in 2011. The first was in January of 2011 when coyote hunters shot and killed a mountain lion. The second was in May of 2011, which was confirmed by photographs of tracks left by the cat in a muddy creek bed.
Though there has been no confirmed reports on mountain lions in Knox County several residents have reported seeing them in the area.
One rural Knox County resident, Roslyn Baker, told the Sentinel she saw one just a few weeks ago less than two miles west of Edina.
"We were coming down the highway and we were in my son in laws car hauler so we were up high. I was in the passenger seat," said Baker. "It was in Democrat Fill. I looked to the right and I saw the hindquarters of one of them moving into the timber. Obviously that’s what it was. It had a long tail. It moved like a cat. It was the right color. It was a lot larger than a bobcat."
Below is a list of mountain lion safety tips published by the Missouri Department of Conservation in 2011.
• STOP. Back away slowly if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate a cougar’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the animal, stand upright and maintain eye contact.
• DO NOT APPROACH A MOUNTAIN LION, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions try to avoid confrontations. Give them a way to escape.
• STAY CALM. Talk to the cat in a calm, but firm voice.
• DO ALL YOU CAN TO APPEAR LARGER. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you’re wearing one.
• THROW STONES, branches, or whatever you can get your hands on if the cougar behaves aggressively.
• DO NOT CROUCH DOWN or turn your back on the mountain lion.
• WAVE YOUR ARMS slowly and speak firmly. You want to convince the lion that you are not prey and that you may, in fact, be a danger to it.
• FIGHT BACK if a lion attacks. Mountain lions have been driven away by people who fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and bare hands. A sturdy walking stick can be used to ward off a mountain lion.
• REMAIN STANDING or try to get back up if you are attacked.
• GO IN GROUPS when you walk, hike or bike in states with established mountain lion populations.
• MAKE PLENTY OF NOISE to reduce your chances of surprising a lion.
• KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE and within sight at all times and pick up small children so they won’t panic and run.
• TALK WITH CHILDREN about lions and teach them what to do if they see one.