Front Range attack shows dangers of living with mountain lions
- 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!
Monday’s mountain lion attack outside of Fort Collins served as a not-so-friendly reminder that, while trapping and killing animals that pose a threat may not be a popular solution, they remain one of Colorado’s fiercest and most lethal predators.
With that in mind, one of the founders of a Garfield County wildlife rehabilitation center said Tuesday that Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials likely made the right decision to euthanize five cougars that had been roaming the West Glenwood area in recent weeks.
According to CPW officials, a trail runner was attacked at the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space in Larimer County west of Fort Collins on Monday, and was able to defend himself from the attack, ultimately killing the animal before it could do so to him.
The man said he heard something behind him on the trail and when he turned around to investigate, he saw the lion a short distance behind him on the trail, according to CPW spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell.
She said the man stared the lion in the face, started yelling at it, tried to make himself seem as big as possible and all the things you are supposed to do when confronted by a lion. But, after a short time, it pounced.
The man used a rock to defend himself and managed to choke the lion with his hands, arms and feet, said Ferrell.
He sustained serious, but non-life threatening injuries.
Since 1990, Colorado has had three fatalities and 16 injuries as a result of mountain lion attacks, states CPW.
Ferrell said the last lion attack in the state was in 2017.
While mountain lion attacks on people in Colorado remain rare, local wildlife officials have faced backlash after trapping and killing five lions in West Glenwood last month.
The lions, four of which were believed to be a mother and three cubs, received sympathy from readers in California, Washington and throughout the state. In the end, though, their behavior, combined with their age and the current winter climate, may have forced wildlife officials’ hand.
Nanci Limbach, one of the founders of the Schneegas Wildlife Foundation in Silt, admitted that these cats at this time would have been very difficult to relocate.
“It’s a tough winter and with that many lions congregated in a concentrated area..,” she explained. “Their chance of survival is next to none if you were to try to relocate them.”
She explained that wildlife officials would not attempt to move them until the winter is over and, by then, because of their age, their relocation would have been very difficult.
The local mountain lions appeared to show no fear of humans. Even if relocated to new territory, they wouldn’t have homogenized with the existing lion population in that area, Limbach added.
The Schneegas Wildlife Foundation is one of two wildlife rehabilitation centers in Colorado that will accept mountain lions.
Limbach, who founded the foundation in 1984, said they have rehabilitated 30 to 40 lions over the years.
The foundation will typically get the lions that are found injured or orphaned. She said most of them are less than a year old when released.
She added that older lions can suffer from capture myopathy, a disease in which muscle damage results from extreme stress. So, there’s no guarantee they would have survived a catch and release.