LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - A runner fought for his life after he was attacked by a mountain lion on a trail in Larimer County, Colorado Monday afternoon.
The man was running on the West Ridge Trail in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space west of Fort Collins when he says he heard something behind him. As he turned, the animal lunged at him. While fighting the mountain lion off, the runner was bit in the face and wrists. He eventually broke free and got out of the park and to the hospital.
Wildlife officials say in course of defending himself, the runner killed the mountain lion. They did not elaborate on how the animal died. It has been taken to a health lab for a necropsy.
The mountain lion was described as a "juvenile" weighing about 80 pounds.
In addition to injuries to his face and wrists, the runner also had puncture wounds to his arms, legs and back. His injuries were reportedly serious but not life-threatening.
"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 and Wildlife Northeast Region manager.
Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare in Colorado, with just 16 injuries and three fatalities since 1990. In North America, there have been fewer than 20 fatalities in the last century.
"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. "This could have had a very different outcome."
It's also uncommon to see a mountain lion in the wild, as they do not generally like to make their presence known to humans.
"Human encounters with mountain lions are rare and the risk of an attack is infinitely small. ... If lions had any natural urge to hunt people, there would be attacks every single day. Instead, they avoid us." - Mountain Lion Foundation
In Colorado Springs, there have been a handful of confirmed sightings in west side parks, including Cheyenne Mountain State Park and Red Rock Canyon Open Space, in the last several years. In at least one of those sightings, the mountain lion approached a runner, which experts say is not typical. But in the case that you do encounter a mountain lion, wildlife experts say there are things you can do to keep yourself safe.
What to do if you encounter a mountain lion, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
- Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly and never turn your back on it.
- Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.
- Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you're wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won't panic and run.
- If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
- 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. Remain standing or try to get back up!
- If you live, work, or play in mountain lion country, it is important to be alert!