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Colorado trail runner suffocates, kills attacking mountain lion in self defense

Posted at 7:47 AM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 14:25:32-05

A man running on a trail at Horsetooth Mountain Park near Fort Collins, Colorado killed an attacking mountain lion by suffocation in self-defense Monday afternoon, according to a release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The man described hearing something behind him on the trail and was attacked as he turned around to investigate. The lion lunged at the runner, biting his face and wrist. But the man was able to fight and break free from the lion, the release read. On Tuesday morning, CPW said the runner suffocated the animal while defending himself.

The victim, whose name has not been released, suffered facial lacerations, wrist injuries and scratches. Wildlife officials said he also had puncture wounds to his arms, legs and back.

“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.

After the attack, he was able to hike out to safety and drove himself to a hospital, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. His injuries were described as serious but not life-threatening.

The initial release from the wildlife agency made no mention of the animal's condition. However, a subsequent news release stated that wildlife officers returned to the area and found the animal's body "within feet of several possessions that the victim asked the officers to look for on the trail."

The lion was taken to an animal health lab for a necropsy.

The agency said the attack on the runner was likely triggered by the animal's hunting instincts. Wildlife offices said mountain lions will often instinctively try to chase and attack fast-moving animals, including humans.

However, mountain lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than 20 fatalities in North America in more than 100 years, according to CPW. Since 1990, Colorado has had 16 injuries as a result of mountain lion attacks, and three fatalities.

CPW provided the following tips 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!