Yesterday afternoon, a trail runner was out for a run alone in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space area outside of Fort Collins, Colorado, when he was attacked by a mountain lion. The runner said he heard something behind him, and as he turned around to look, the lion attacked him from behind, biting his face and wrist. He managed to break free from the cougar’s claws and teeth, and he told investigators from Colorado Parks & Wildlife that he choked the lion to death while defending himself.
The runner apparently sustained “serious, but non–life threatening injuries” in the attack, and despite his wounds, he managed to run out of the park and get to a hospital for treatment. A necropsy of the animal this morning confirmed that the lion was suffocated.
According to a CPW release, the body of an 80-pound juvenile mountain lion was located on the West Ridge Trail. “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 Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region manager Mark Leslie. The park was reopened last night after the investigation was concluded.
Mountain lion attacks are exceedingly rare in North America, with under 20 fatal attacks occurring in the last 100 years. Colorado has a healthy mountain lion population, as do many other western states, and a Washington mountain biker was killed by one last year. According to CPW, mountain lions have injured 16 people and killed three in Colorado since 1990.
The agency also published an extensive guide on how to avoid an attack, and what to do if you are attacked:
- 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!