Shawne and Shannon Leach live in the high country of Summit County, Colorado near the banks of the Snake River. On Saturday, Jan. 27, their 14-month-old cur mix Fergus was taken from their backyard by a prowling mountain lion. Miraculously, the dog survived the harrowing ordeal, but not before the Leach’s tracked the lion through knee-deep snow and fired multiple warning shots at the large predator.
“The whole time we were tracking him we didn’t have any fear for ourselves. That cat was not going to take our dog,” Shawne Leach later told Summit Daily. “We were so determined to get him back. Who could have thought I could face a cougar 5 feet in front of me and not be absolutely petrified?”
The couple heard a strange yelp coming from the backyard while they were eating dinner around 7:30 p.m., Summit Daily reports. Shannon did a quick sweep with his flashlight, finding only blood—then the couple took off in pursuit of their pet.
Shawne told the outlet that she opted to crawl over the top of the deep snow to keep from post-holing as she searched for her dog in the darkness. Shannon walked upright, trudging through the snow behind her. They crossed the frozen Snake River and approached the edge of the Keystone Ranch Golf Course when Shawne recognized the familiar glow of Furgus’ fluorescent collar in her flashlight beam. Then she saw the mountain lion hovering above Fergus.
“I (shouted) back to Shannon, ‘Furgus is still alive. We’ve got to save him,'” she told Summit Daily. “I’m yelling at Shannon, ‘Shoot it! Shoot it!’ That thing (had) its mouth open and (was) hissing at me.” Her husband fired one round into ground, but the cat stood its ground, she recalled. When he fired a second shot closer to he lion, it retreated into the woods and Fergus came walking toward them with one of his eyes hanging from the socket.
The couple called their neighbors Boyd and Debora Mitchell who drove them to an emergency veterinary hospital in the nearby town of Lakewood, and Furgus went straight onto the operating table when they arrived. While the vets weren’t able to save his eye, he survived without any major neurological damage or limb injuries, according to Leach. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) searched for the lion, but it was never located.
Colorado is home to an estimated 3,800 to 4,400 adult mountain lions, CPW says on its website. “Lions stalk prey and attack with a rush, often from behind,” the agency states. “Their powerful bite crushes the windpipe of their prey or breaks the neck during a kill.” CPW recommends that folks living in lion country install outdoor flood lights and supervise children while spending time outdoors. Pets attract lions, the agency says, and should be kept under control at all times.