Aspen’s “other mountain” was home to high drama last Saturday, as local Park and Game officials responded to several calls reporting that an aggressive and disoriented cougar was stalking hikers.
“You get the occasional bear sighting on the outskirts of town, but to see a predator of this magnitude in broad daylight — on a heavily trafficked hiking path like that — is very uncommon,” said Miles Standish, a ranger’s deputy.
The predator had circled several times and was “about to lunge” at a young male hiker when Standish fired a sedative dart into the cougar’s midsection.
“We’re glad no further harm came to any of our residents,” Standish said, also noting that the cougar is now suspected in the disappearance of several young men who have not shown up to their shifts at ski shops and restaurants this week.
Early lab results identified that the cougar as Halle Smithfield, 57, from New York’s Upper East Side, may have trace amounts of human tissue in her teeth and under her nails. Local witnesses say they saw the female predator stalking Hyman Street outside of Silver City Saloon after midnight a few nights ago.
“At this point, we can’t confirm anything,” Standish reported, “but we’ve seen this before. Cougars who copulate with and then attack and eat their partners.”
Aspen has of course always had a vibrant cougar population but is seeing a problematic spike in attacks this year, he continued.
“We hope to eventually relocate the cougar community altogether, to somewhere like Grand Junction” Standish said.
For now, the wildlife service is just handling cougar incidents on a case-by-case basis.