Mountain lion attacks couple in hot tub on vacation in Colorado

A mountain lion attacked a man as he relaxed in a hot tub at a rental property in Chaffee County, Colorado, on March 18, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials.

In a release, parks officials said the man and his wife had been sitting in an in-ground hot tub when "he felt something grab his head."

"He and his wife began screaming and splashing water at the animal," the release said. "The victim’s wife grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the animal, which they then identified as a mountain lion."

CPW said the "light and commotion" startled the animal, which retreated back as the two continued yelling at it. It eventually "moved up to the top of a hill near some rocks where it crouched down and continued to watch the couple."

The two told officials they got out of the tub and went back into the house, where they cleaned up the man’s scratches and called the property owner, who then contacted CPW.

According to the release, the victim had "four superficial scratches on top of his head and near his right ear."

Officers determined his injuries were "consistent with the claw of a mountain lion," the release said.

When officers arrived at the scene, they immediately searched for the mountain lion but there were no tracks due to the freezing temperatures and frozen snow on the ground. They said in the release they did not think tracking hounds would be successful either but set a trap nearby in hopes of catching the wild animal.

"We think it’s likely the mountain lion saw the man’s head move in the darkness at ground-level but didn’t recognize the people in the hot tub,” Sean Shepherd, the area wildlife manager based in Salida, said in the release. "The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion. Although this victim had only minor injuries, we take this incident seriously. We have alerted neighbors and posted signs warning of lion activity. And we will continue to track the lion and lion activity."

Wildlife officials are asking residents to keep an eye out for mountain lion sightings. They can contact CPW’s Salida office at 719-530-5520 during the day or Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424 after business hours.

The March 18 incident is the first mountain lion attack of a human in Colorado this year. The last recorded incident was Feb. 27, 2022, when a man in Montezuma County was attacked on his own front porch. He survived but had several puncture wounds to his lower right leg, officials said at the time.

"This is the 24th known attack of a mountain lion causing injury to a human in Colorado since 1990," according to the March 20 release from CPW. "Three other attacks in Colorado since 1990 have resulted in human deaths."

Wildlife officials suggest following the "SMART" acrostic if you ever encounter a mountain lion:

  • S: Stop. Do not run!

  • M: Make yourself look big.

  • A: Announce your presence in an authoritative voice

  • R: Retreat by backing away slowly.

  • T: Tell an adult (for kids) or wildlife officials about the encounter

For residents in high-risk areas for mountain lion encounters, CPW also urges people to follow these simple precautions:

  • Make lots of noise as you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active: dusk to dawn.

  • Install outside lighting

  • Closely supervise children and pets whenever they play outdoors

  • Remove vegetation to eliminate hiding places and avoid planting non-native shrubs that deer like to eat

  • Do not leave pets or livestock outside overnight — bring them inside or into enclosed barns at night and close the doors

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