FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A trail runner attacked by a mountain lion Monday while running in a Colorado park killed the predator by suffocating it, state wildlife officials said.
The man, who hasn’t been identified, was running alone in Horsetooth Mountain Park when he was attacked from behind, according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife release.
The man told authorities he heard something behind him on the trail and as he turned, he was attacked. He said he was bitten on his face and wrist but was able to fight and break free from the lion. While defending himself, he killed the lion in self-defense.
The man sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries. He hiked down the trail and drove himself to a local hospital, according to wildlife officials.
Start the day smarter: Get USA TODAY’s Daily Briefing in your inbox
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials confirmed the man’s account of the attack through further investigation and examining the juvenile mountain lion. A necropsy will be performed on the mountain lion to determine if it was sick or injured, which might have prompted the attack.
Wildlife officers found the mountain lion dead near where the incident took place while looking for items the runner asked them to look for along on the trail.
“The runner did everything he could to save his life,” said Mark Leslie, CPW’s 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.”
The popular park was reopened Monday evening after closing due to the investigation.
While mountain lion attacks are extremely rare in Colorado, the last two fatal attacks have occurred in Larimer County, according to CPW spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell.
In October of 1999, 3-year-old Jaryd Atadero was killed on the Big South Trail in the upper Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins. In July of 1997, 10-year-old Mark Miedema was killed by a mountain lion in Rocky Mountain National Park.
in 1991, a runner was killed by a lion while jogging above Clear Creek High School in Idaho Springs.
The last reported non-fatal attack was reported June of 2016 in Pitkin County.
CPW said fewer than 20 fatal mountain lion attacks on humans have been reported in North America over the past 100 years. Since 1990, 16 people have been injured from mountain lion attacks in Colorado and three fatalities. Mountain lions are known to be active in and around Fort Collins. CPW shot and killed a mountain lion north of Wellington in November 2017 after it killed goats and alpacas in the area.
Coloradoan reporter Jacy Marmaduke contributed to this report. Coloradoan editor Eric Larsen can be reached at email@example.com or 970-224-7745.