A runner in Colorado fought off and killed a mountain lion that attacked him on a park trail.
The unidentified runner never saw the animal coming, according to a statement by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), because the animal — a juvenile mountain lion — pounced on him from behind as he was jogging the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space in Fort Collins. The man said he heard a noise but was attacked before he was able to turn around. The animal was able to bite the runner’s face and wrist before the man fought back.
A spokesperson for CPW told Yahoo Lifestyle that the man was able to strangle juvenile mountain lion to death while defending himself. Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for CPW, said this kind of wildcat — also known as a cougar or a panther — is not very common in Colorado.
“It is unfortunate that the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the runner,” Petersburg said. “This could have had a very different outcome.”
After killing the mountain lion in self-defense, the runner was able to flee the scene and find his way to a local hospital, where he was treated for “serious but non-life-threatening injuries.” The animal’s body was later recovered by park officials after the victim identified the location of the attack; it was taken to CPW’s animal health lab for a autopsy. The park rangers were also able to recover the man’s abandoned belongings.
“The runner did everything he could to save his life,” said Mark Leslie, CPW Northeast Region manager. “In the event of a lion attack, you need to do anything in your power to fight back, just as this gentleman did.”
A spokesperson for CPW confirmed with Yahoo Lifestyle that the man was still in the hospital as of Tuesday evening.
The organization emphasized how rare it is for “elusive” mountain lions to even approach people — fewer than 20 fatalities have been reported in North America in more than 100 years, and Colorado has had just 16 injuries and three fatalities since 1990 as a result of mountain lion attacks. “Most people will never see a lion in the wild, but they are there,” CPW said in the release. The Mountain Lion Foundation, meanwhile, called attacks on humans “infinitely rare.”
That said, CPW cautions, “If you live, work, or play in mountain lion country, it is important to be alert.” Their statement also provides specific instructions to follow in the event of a mountain lion attack; they include staying calm, backing away and trying to “appear larger.” CPW recommends fighting the animal only in self-defense — never proactively.
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