Dog-attacking mountain lion in Nederland was healthy, hadn’t recently fed on dogs, necropsy reveals

Officials say the lion had multiple gunshot wounds on its head and chest after a man whose dog it was attacking killed it

Tracy Ross
The Colorado Sun

NEDERLAND — A mountain lion killed after it attacked two dogs in a neighborhood near Nederland on Dec. 27 had no dog remains in its gut when it died, according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife necropsy report. 

The examination of the animal, believed to be about 3 years old, suggests it was an opportunistic predator and not starving because deer, its natural prey, had been over-hunted, as some residents in the area suspected. Necropsies are standard when wildlife is involved in a conflict with humans, for disease monitoring purposes, for law enforcement cases and in instances where the cause of death is unknown and biologists want to learn more. 

Starting in 2021, a lion or lions (CPW couldn’t say for certain) had attacked, killed and dragged off dozens of dogs in forested subdivisions in Boulder and Gilpin counties, sometimes in the presence of their owners. Residents grew frantic when the incidents escalated between Nov. 9 and Dec. 9, during which time seven dogs died, two were stalked, one survived an attack and one vanished. Many accused state wildlife officials of not doing enough to save their pets and potentially, they said, their children.  

The situation came to a head Dec. 27, when a lion jumped an 80-pound husky outside of a home in Gilpin County, according to its owner. When the owner lunged and screamed, the cat released the dog and traveled a quarter mile to the home of Daniel Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Garage in Rollinsville. The lion attacked Murphy’s 51-pound mixed-breed rescue, Mini, while he walked from his car to his house. Murphy says he heard Mini, “screaming, making all kinds of bad noises,” and saw the lion “from its rear end, on my dog.” He ran at it, screaming, “and it didn’t care at all,” he says. “At that point, I stopped thinking and just started acting. Luckily I had a rifle handy, and I ran in and grabbed that. Then I did what I could to save my dog’s life.”  

Murphy fired a .223 AR-15 semi-automatic rifle 20 times at the lion. “Basically, once everything started happening, I wanted to make sure I’d taken care of the lion and it wouldn’t be angry and wandering around the woods,” he says. Once he could confirm the lion was dead, he started searching for Mini. A friend Murphy had called found her running on South Beaver Road nearly a mile from Murphy’s home. 

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