A trail runner was recently surprised by a vicious attack during their run in Larimer County near Fort Collins in northern Colorado, coming face to face with a mountain lion. According to state officials, the unidentified runner managed to survive the attack, reportedly killing the lion in self-defence.
On Monday, he was running through the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed in a statement. While no details on how exactly they managed to kill the lion - referred to as a "juvenile" - have been released, the runner somehow managed to get himself to hospital following the attack.
The victim described how he had heard something approaching him on the trail, and was attacked as soon as he turned around to see the mountain lion. Lunging at the runner, the animal bit his face and wrist, causing serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Once it was reported, wildlife officers returned to the scene of the attack, where they found the lion's body within a few feet of the man's abandoned possessions.
"The runner did everything he could to save his life," Mark Leslie, CPW's Northeast region manager, said. "In the event of a lion attack you need to do anything in your power to fight back, just as this gentleman did."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers, working in tandem with Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, are still conducting an investigation into what happened, and have now taken the animal in to an animal health lab for a necropsy.
“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 explained. “This could have had a very different outcome.”
According to the CPW, mountain lion attacks are fairly rare, with less than twenty people killed by one in North America in the last century. Since 1990, there have been 16 injuries and three fatalities as a result of mountain lion attacks in the state.
An incident in Colorado was reported in June 2016, when a five-year-old boy was injured outside his home in Pitkin County, though thankfully he survived.
Officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife explained that mountain lion populations are doing well in the state, but the animals are naturally elusive avoiding contact with humans where they can. Regardless, their official statement included some tips on how to avoid contact with a mountain lion and how to survive an attack.
For one, they insist that you never approach one, as most mountain lions will avoid a confrontation if they spot a means of escape. Secondly, it's best to stay calm in the confrontation, talking calmly and firmly. Stopping in your tracks or backing away slowly is your best bet, as running may stimulate their instinct to chase and attack.
Furthermore, it's best to stay facing the lion, standing upright and doing all you can to appear larger. If the lion begins to behave aggressively, officials suggested you throw stones or whatever objects you can get your hands on without crouching or turning from them. Essentially, what you're trying to do is convince the lion that you are not prey and are a potential threat. Even if you are attacked, fighting back at all may scare them off.