A trail runner fought off a mountain lion in Colorado, sustaining serious injuries from bites before he broke free and killed the animal.
The unnamed man got himself to hospital after the incident in the foothills of Horsetooth Mountain on Feb. 4, with what the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) department describe as serious, but nonlife-threatening injuries.”
The lion was a juvenile.
“The lion lunged at the runner, biting his face and wrist,” said the CPW statement. “He was able to fight and break free from the lion, killing the lion in self-defense.”
The CPW did not explain how the man was able to kill the animal, but endorsed his actions.
“The runner did everything he could to save his life. In the event of a lion attack you need to do anything in your power to fight back just as this gentleman did,” said Mark Leslie, Colorado Parks Wildlife Northeast Region manager, in a statement.
According to the CPW, fewer than 20 people have been killed by mountain lions—also known as cougars, pumas, and panthers— in North America in over 100 years.
Since 1990, Colorado has had 16 injuries as a result of mountain lion attacks, and three fatalities, according to the CPW.
“Mountain lion attacks are not common in Colorado and it is unfortunate that the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the runner,” Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement. “This could have had a very different outcome.”
An ultrarunner who ran along through the area that day, Nick Clark, said he’s run in the park a “couple thousand times” without seeing a mountain lion, though he has seen deer they have killed and their tracks.
“I honestly never think about being attacked by a mountain lion up there,” he told the Coloradoan. “We joke about it but maybe we shouldn’t. We talk about we never see them but we assume we are being watched. They are generally very reclusive and there is plenty of deer up there for them to prey on. I’m much more concerned about rattlesnakes up there.”
Adult males can typically reach 180 pounds, and females 130 pounds. Some rare ones have topped 200 pounds. Adult males will measure 6 to 8 feet from nose to tail tip and females 5 to 7 feet.
“The most recognizable feature of the American lion is its long and heavy tail, which measures almost one-third of the lion’s total length,” according to the Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF).
The foundation believes the mountain lion population in the United States is unlikely to exceed 30,000.
‘We Recommend Targeting the Eyes and Nose’
“Cougars are solitary, elusive, and very stealthy,” according to the MLF website. “If a cougar is in the area and you are lucky enough to detect its presence, most often it will be due to “cougar sign” and not actually seeing the animal. These signs are evidence left behind after a cougar has passed through. Cougar signs include tracks, scat, scratches, and cached (partially buried) prey.”
Those who are lucky—or unlucky—enough to have a rare encounter are advised by the CWP to stay calm, talk firmly to it, and never turn your back on the animal.
“Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely,” said the CWP advice. “Running may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.”
Never approach a lion, especially one with kittens.
If the lion behaves aggressively, the advice is to throw stones, branches or whatever is to hand—but “without crouching down or turning your back. ”
“Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands successfully. We recommend targeting the eyes and nose as these are sensitive areas.”