Chihuahua survives mountain lion attack northeast of Durango

Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 5:23 PM
Sienna Cullum, 11, walks with the family dog, Spits, 8, on Wednesday at their home in northeast Durango about a week after Spits was attacked by a mountain lion on a trail near her subdivision. Sienna is the daughter of Laurie and Dan Cullum.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has placed a warning sign near a trail in northeast Durango where a mountain lion attacked a dog last week.
Laurie Cullum holds the family dog, Spits, 8, on Wednesday with her husband, Dan, and their daughter, Sienna, at their home in northeast Durango about a week after the dog was attacked by a mountain lion on a trail near their subdivision.
Spits suffered a puncture wound that went through his skull, piercing his sinus cavity and blinding him in one eye along with claw marks on his back after he was attacked by a mountain lion on a trail near a subdivision in northeast Durango.

An 11-pound Chihuahua named Spits is on the mend after being attacked last week by a mountain lion, narrowly surviving.

Laurie Cullum was out for a walk the evening of Aug. 28 with her two dogs on a trail near the Songbird subdivision off Florida Road, about a half-mile past Durango Sports Club.

Spits was about 60 feet behind her, Cullum said, when she heard a scream. Cullum turned around and found the 8-year-old Chihuahua lying in the dirt, not moving and covered in blood.

Cullum ran toward Spits and spotted a mountain lion off the trail.

“You get this tunnel vision and you’re freaking out,” she said. “But I saw the mountain lion running away. He was about 150 pounds or so and had a brindle color.”

Cullum took Spits to Durango Animal Hospital, expecting the dog would be euthanized.

“He was so close to dead,” she said.

But veterinarian Charles Hawman, who took the after-hours call, believed Spits had a chance to survive the attack. He cared for Spits for two nights at his own home and nursed the Chihuahua back to health.

Calls to Hawman were not immediately returned Thursday.

Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said Wednesday a wildlife officer went to the neighborhood and posted warning signs. But it is not unheard of that a mountain lion will go after domestic pets.

“The biggest thing is just being aware we live in mountain lion habitat, and that’s part of the reality of living in a place like Durango,” he said.

Because it is so hard to capture mountain lions, a trap typically isn’t set unless the animal poses a significant threat.

“Setting a trap for a mountain lion is not very effective,” Lewandowski said. “They’re so elusive. It could be in Cortez in three days, or it could be 300 yards away and we’d never see it.”

Cullum also put up a sign warning people of mountain lion activity. The attack happened about 150 yards from her home on a trail she walks every day. She lets her dogs off leash on the trail to run around and thinks that may have attracted the lion.

Spits is still recovering. He has a puncture through his sinus cavity and is blind in one eye. His balance is off, but with time, that should improve.

“It’s a hard situation,” Cullum said. “But he’s still alive, and I think he’s going to get better.”