Charles Zelenka lived in his Colorado home for 17 years, during which time he observed deer, bears, elk, bighorn sheep and even the occasional moose roaming his half-acre yard. That’s why, when he woke up around 2 a.m. on January 4 with a loud banging noise outside his Glenwood Springs home, he thought it was the usual bears trying to get into his dumpster.
“That’s where the shocks and the noise were coming from,” Zelenka said. Outdoor living. He dragged himself out of bed to look out the bathroom window, but couldn’t see anything in the darkness outside. His yellow lab, Sunny, was curled up on the bed and didn’t seem disturbed. So Zelenka, hoping the noise would stop soon, fell asleep again. âNext thing I know, I heard other thumping noises. I was like, okay, I have to check this out.
So Zelenka came down the stairs and turned on the outside lights, looking out the window of her front door.
“I was like, Holy shit, there’s a moose on my porch! I could see him hitting his front paws. I was like, What the hell happened? I couldn’t understand.
Perhaps the cow had been hit by a car and headed for her porch to die. Interstate 70, which runs through Glenwood Canyon, is less than 200 feet from Zelenka Court.
The momentum stopped kicking and Zelenka walked into the downstairs bathroom to get a better look. He could still see the moose through the window, but this new sight was somewhat obscured by a grill and a smoker.
âI was about to turn around and get out, and a mountain lion appeared under this thing,â Zelenka says. âSo I grabbed my phone – I’m in my underwear, just got out of bed – and started recording. “
The video, that Zelenka posted on facebook where it has since received over 23,000 shares and nearly 5,000 comments, shows a snow-covered cougar with bloody fur just outside the window. The moose is lying on its side, its front half collapsed on the porch floor with its hindquarters in the snow and its head and neck awkwardly twisted under its chest. The big cat watches his back trail, perhaps confused by the sudden flood of light, then hisses when he notices Zelenka is filming from the window. It whistles again, then turns and slowly walks through the yard, leaving bloody paw prints in the snow before disappearing into the trees.
Zelenka called the local dispatch, which told her to stay safe. After the cat disappeared into the woods, Zelenka grabbed her air rifle and stepped out onto the porch to take a quick look at the moose. Then he went back to bed. This time he had a hard time falling asleep.
“It just caught me off guard,” Zelenka said of this first meeting. âI see a lot of animals. I have a lot of bighorn sheep, elk, deer, bears â they’re all in my backyard. You don’t see this every day. It was also all about the timing. It was a rush.
The next morning, Zelenka saw the momentum better and tried to piece together what had happened. From what he can tell from the trail in the snow, the cougar-elk fight began on the ridge above his house before the two entered his yard. All the noise of the night made more sense when he saw the footsteps, and there was even a small hole in his house. A piece of covering was missing and there was fur and blood in the space, and no more hair hanging in a ladder attached to the wall. The elk had some missing flesh inside its hindquarters, and the cat had clearly eaten a few bites from its belly. Zelenka took note of all the signs, but tried not to go past any.
âI didn’t want to disturb the area too much until the DOW arrived, because you never know how law enforcement is approaching this thing,â Zelenka said, noting that some Facebook commentators had accused him of ‘to have drawn on the momentum.
When the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife officer arrived that morning, the officer wrapped a cable around the moose, dragged it out of Zelenka’s porch, and winched it in. his van. He hoped the meat would be processed for donation. Before leaving, the officer told Zelenka that he could expect to see the lion again over the next few days, as he would return with the intention of feeding on the kill.
âI used to hunt but I’m not necessarily a great hunter now. So I just went over there and tried to scent the area with, you know, urine, âZelenka laughs. “I just want to disperse him and let him know I’m here, but I’m sure he’s still up there.” And that’s what the DOW [officer] also said, he said, ‘He lives on the ridge somewhere behind your house – probably looking at us right now – so be careful. “
And Zelenka has been careful this week. He escorts his dog outside, bringing a gun and a bright flashlight at night. Although he had never seen a cougar in his yard before this encounter, Zelenka says he has found two killings of pumas, deer, over the years. One was 100 feet up the hill from his house and another was 300 feet. A few months ago, her neighbor’s daughter took her chihuahua, Sasquatch, outside around midnight.
“Sasquatch is missing,” said Zelenka, who immediately texted this week’s video to her neighbor. âJust gone, completely gone. “
In the days following the encounter, security cameras captured footage of the big cat crossing the bridge above its driveway and through its porch.
Mountain Lions in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
In December 2017 and 2018, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports received of several sets of lion tracks in the yard in the yards of Glenwood Springs, and includes reports of a dog that was attacked and lived, and one that was attacked and killed. A later report said a man walking his dog saw a lion stalking them behind bushes in a yard. In nine days, five lions were trapped in the subdivision in question.
Zelenka lives in the Glenwood Special Management Area, a 1,830 square mile strip of Colorado that requires additional cougar management. It includes towns like Aspen, Carbondale, Eagle and Vail. According to the state West Slope Lion Management Plan, which was implemented in September 2020, ââ¦ near Glenwood Springs, levels of human security and social tolerance are a higher management priority than lion abundance. This is balanced with the overarching goal on the much larger scale of the Northwest region of maintaining a stable lion population. “
The statewide mountain lion population is estimated at between 3,000 and 7,000 animals, according to to an undated page on the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife website. During the 2020-21 lion season, 526 mountain lions were culled statewide, for a 20% success rate among 2,672 hunters in total. Fourteen of these big cats were captured in the Glenwood Special Management Area.