cougar mountain lion
Photo credit: Eric Kilby

Runner Fights Off, Chokes Mountain Lion to Death on CO Trail

‘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.

A trail runner in Colorado frantically fought off and killed a mountain lion after it attacked him from behind, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) confirmed in a press release.

The man, whose identity has not been released, suffered “serious, but non-life threatening injuries as a result of the attack,” according to CPW. Following an examination of the animal, authorities confirmed the man suffocated the mountain lion while defending himself. After the incident, wildlife officers collected the juvenile animal’s body near several of the man’s possessions on the trail and performed a necropsy, CPW said.

“Mountain lion attacks are not common in Colorado and it is unfortunate that the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the runner,” said Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “This could have had a very different outcome.”

Runner Fights Off, Kills Mountain Lion

Runner Fights Off, Kills Mountain Lion on CO Trail

The incident happened Monday outside Fort Collins, Colo., along the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. The victim told authorities he was running on the trail and heard a sound behind him. When he turned to investigate, he said, the lion “lunged” at him and immediately began biting his face and wrists.

The runner broke free, killed the mountain lion, and got himself to a local hospital. Despite the severity of the attack, CPW officials note that Colorado has seen only 16 injuries and three fatalities from mountain lion attacks since 1990.

If you encounter a mountain lion, CPW offers a few tips for safely handling the situation.

What to Do If You See 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, and speak 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 and 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!
Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.