A trail runner in Colorado killed a mountain lion with his bare hands in self-defense after he was attacked from behind on Monday, wildlife officials say. The unidentified man suffered serious injuries, but was able to kill the animal while defending himself, according to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife department.
“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,” Mark Leslie, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region manager, said in a statement.
According to officials, the incident occurred Monday, February 4, as the jogger ran on the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. “The victim was able to defend himself from the attack, resulting in the death of the juvenile mountain lion. The runner was then able to leave the open space property and get himself to a local hospital,” the Parks and Wildlife department said in a press release.
The area near where the attack occurred was closed on Monday, but reopened Tuesday, officials said. The investigation into the incident by state and Larimer County officials is ongoing.
“We are actively investigating a reported wild cat attack on a trail runner at Horsetooth Mountain Park on Monday afternoon, Feb 4. The victim survived the attack and is currently undergoing medical treatment at a local hospital. He was able to fight off the cat and hike himself out to safety. As we work with Larimer County and the victim in this case to learn more, we will share additional information,” according to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Twitter account.
“We have confirmed that the cat from today’s incident was a juvenile mountain lion. Our officers are with Larimer County investigating the scene of the attack. We will share more details are we get them from the field,” the state wildlife agency said on Twitter.
Wildlife Officials Say the Man Was Able to ‘Suffocate’ the Mountain Lion While Defending Himself, but They Have ‘Several Questions’ About What Happened During the Incident
The Colorado Parks & Wildlife agency tweeted on Tuesday, “After additional investigation, including examination of the lion, we have confirmed the victim’s account that he was able to suffocate the animal while defending himself from the attack.” The new information came after a necropsy was completed on the slain animal.
Authorities said the runner, whose name has not been made public, was attacked from behind and he then fought for his life and killed the animal. According to the Denver Post, the man either strangled or smothered the mountain lion. Officials told the newspaper he killed the animal with his “bare, bleeding hands” after climbing on top of him. He did not have any weapons or other tools.
“It’s an amazing story. Everyone is baffled and impressed,” Rebecca Ferrell, spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told the Denver Post. “He had no weapons, no knives or trekking poles with him. How did he do it? It’s pretty rare. That is definitely a twist on this, I’m sure.”
Ferrell told the newspaper the man remains hospitalized with serious injuries, including facial bite wounds and lacerations to his arms, legs and back. Wildlife investigators still have to interview him further and planned to do so Tuesday at the hospital. “We have several questions for him,” Ferrell told the Post. According to the Post:
The victim was running on West Ridge Trail when he heard something behind him, Ferrell said. As he turned, he saw the mountain lion pounce for his head and neck, she said. The mountain lion bit him on the face and wrist. The victim managed to partially block the attack with his forearms, Ferrell said. He managed to fight and break free from the mountain lion.
According to a press release from the Parks & Wildlife agency, the man was able to get out of the open space property himself and to the hospital.
“The victim of the attack described hearing something behind him on the trail and was attacked by a mountain lion as he turned around to investigate. The lion lunged at the runner, biting his face and wrist. He was able to fight and break free from the lion, killing the lion in self-defense. The runner sustained serious, but non-life threatening injuries as a result of the attack,” the press release said. “As wildlife officers searched the trail area provided by the runner, the body of a juvenile mountain lion was found within feet of several possessions that the victim asked the officers to look for on the trail.”
Officials told the Post that they are investigating every possibility, including the rare chance the mountain lion was rabid, and are treating the man for infections as a precaution.
“Our veterinarians will take a look to determine if there was any kind of disease, if he was maybe starving, or if it just so happens that as young cat, he was still learning his hunting instincts and unfortunately the trail runner was kind of in the right place at the right time to trigger those instincts,” Farrell told The Denver Channel.
There Is a Large Mountain Lion Population in Colorado, but Attacks Are Rare
While there is a large mountain lion population in Colorado, the animals, also known as cougars, pumas and panthers, rarely attack humans, according to wildlife experts.
“Mountain lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than 20 fatalities in North America in more than 100 years. Since 1990, Colorado has had 16 injuries as a result of mountain lion attacks, and three fatalities. Lion populations are doing very well in Colorado, but they are elusive animals and tend to avoid humans. Most people will never see a lion in the wild, but they are there. If you live, work, or play in mountain lion country, it is important to be alert,” said Colorado Parks & Wildlife in a press release.
“Mountain lion attacks are not common in Colorado and it is unfortunate that the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the runner. This could have had a very different outcome,” Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a statement.
The agency added in a Facebook post, “These attacks are not common in Colorado. This serves as a reminder that living in Colorado means living among our wildlife.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis said on Facebook, “Don’t mess with Colorado trail runners. A runner near Fort Collins killed an attacking mountain lion with his bare hands. Don’t try this yourself on purpose, as it is likely to end poorly for you. If it does come to a fight, Target the eyes and nose. This gentleman managed to suffocate the attacking cat.”
Experts Say If You Encounter a Mountain Lion You Should Yell & Make Yourself Bigger – ‘Your Best Chance Is to Fight. If You Make Yourself Small They Will Think You Are Prey’
Wildlife officials said that if you encounter a mountain lion, you should yell and make yourself appear bigger by standing tall, waving your arms and facing the mountain lion. “With a mountain lion, your best chance is to fight. If you make yourself small they will think you are prey,” Rebecca Ferrell told the Denver Post.
Here are additional tips from the Parks & Wildlife department on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion:
– 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!
“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,” Mark Leslie, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region manager, said in a statement.
Perry Will, another Colorado wildlife official, told Fox 31 Denver, “Obviously you want to fight back if you are attacked. Definitely fight back. Because there’s a lot of people that have had that happen. I think that’s when the realization to the lion is: that’s not my normal prey.”