A family fearing mountain lions rescued by helicopter north of Durango – the Durango Herald
“We decided we had to get them out as soon as possible,” a search and rescue official said.
A family of three, including an 11-month-old baby, was rescued by helicopter north of Durango last week after parents feared they would be stalked by two pumas.
The rescue took place on September 28 in the Purgatory Flats area east of Purgatory Resort.
The mother became “panicked” and called 911 after seeing the pumas moving through the trees, said Ron Corkish, president of La Plata County Search and Rescue.
“I don’t know if you’ve had these encounters before, but it’s life changing,” Corkish said. “When you just see them going through the trees, and you see them periodically and one is looking at you, then there’s another …”
Corkish said it would have taken at least two hours for search and rescue and Colorado parks and wildlife officials to reach the family’s location. A helicopter, however, could be dispatched and to the scene in less than half that time, he said.
Based on the level of fear felt by the family, which was passed on to the 11-month-old girl, Corkish said he lacked the courage to tell the family that they would have to wait two hours.
Instead, he called Flight For Life to see if he was available and ready to help with a rescue mission.
The flight crew were available and took off, he said.
“Based on the urgency, based on her fear level, based on an 11 month old baby… we decided we had to get them out as soon as possible,” Corkish said. “I could tell that she (the mother) was very agitated and anxious.”
The family, who are from Texas, told Denver7 News that they stood in a meadow waving sticks and bushes in an attempt to keep mountain lions at bay. The helicopter landed near the family, and the mother and child boarded the craft. Due to space restrictions, a flight crew member stayed with the husband while the mother and child were airlifted to the Gelande parking lot at the Purgatory Resort, Corkish said.
The flight crew member who remained behind also said they saw the pumas, Corkish said.
The helicopter made a return trip and picked up the father and flight crew member, he said.
It only took 52 minutes to dispatch the helicopter and put the mother and child to safety, he said.
Corkish said the circumstances were a bit unusual and people shouldn’t expect Flight For Life to save them if they feel threatened by the pumas while recreating themselves outside.
“From our perspective, it’s a bit off the beaten path, and we sure wouldn’t want people to think that’s the norm – that Flight For Life is going to be able to do it all the time. I think the 11 month old baby played a role in the decision making.
Based on the descriptions provided to wildlife protection officers, CPW does not believe the pumas exhibited predatory or protective behavior, spokesman John Livingston said.
A lion reportedly made calls, and soon after, a smaller lion appeared, he said.
“This leads us to believe that she was a mother with a yearling,” he said.
The incident was recorded as an “sighting” by CPW.