A man running along a trail in Colorado who was attacked by a young mountain lion this week managed to choke it to death and escape, state wildlife officials said.
The man, whose name has not been released by the authorities, sustained serious but nonlife-threatening injuries in the attack and was “doing well considering his ordeal,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said Tuesday on Twitter.
The body of the mountain lion, which officials said was less than a year old and weighed under 70 pounds, was found on the trail near some of the man’s possessions and was taken to a lab for examination. The carcass had been fed upon by other animals by the time officials discovered it, a parks and wildlife spokeswoman said.
“This could have had a very different outcome,” Ty Petersburg, an area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said in a statement.
The man, who had been running along the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space — about 65 miles north of Denver — told investigators that at one point on Monday, he heard “something behind him on the trail,” and when he turned around to see what it was, the lion lunged at him and bit his face and wrist, the authorities said.
But the man, who was not armed with any weapons or tools, was able to “fight and break free from the lion, killing the lion in self-defense,” they said. On Tuesday, officials confirmed that the man had indeed been able to suffocate the mountain lion while defending himself from the attack.
“The runner did everything he could to save his life,” Mark Leslie, the manager of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northeastern region, said in the statement. “In the event of a lion attack, you need to do anything in your power to fight back, just as this gentleman did.”
Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and some trailheads were temporarily closed Monday because of the attack. On Tuesday, the Department of Natural Resources in Larimer County initially bolstered patrols in the park and later announced that it had been closed because of what department officials said was “additional mountain lion activity in the area.” The area could reopen later this week, they added.
Wildlife officials said the man who had been attacked was released from the hospital on Tuesday morning and was resting at his home. He had yet to decide if he would speak publicly, they said. The parks and wildlife spokeswoman, Rebecca Ferrell, described him as a “fit and healthy” man in his early 30s but said she could not release any additional details.
The attack came about nine months after a cyclist riding in a wooded area in Washington State was killed by a mountain lion; it was the state’s first such fatality in more than 90 years.
Wildlife officials in Colorado said that mountain lion attacks had caused three deaths in their state since 1990; fewer than 20 people have died from such attacks in North America in more than a century, they said.
In warning the public about Monday’s attack, the wildlife officials offered guidance on what to do if confronted by a mountain lion. They said not to approach the animal, to stay calm, to back away slowly and to throw stones if the cat behaves aggressively.
And if, after all that, a mountain lion attacks, their advice mirrored the behavior exhibited by the man on Monday: “Fight back.”