Colorado has experienced an unfortunate series of mountain lion attacks, three this year alone. The victims all survived and were treated for their injuries. Colorado Parks and Wildlife found and killed each of the lions.
“Since 1990, there have been 22 mountain lion attacks on humans in Colorado with three of those resulting in a fatality (1991, 1997 and 1999),” according to a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “There have been three attacks this year, but the previous attack before this was in 2016. The last time three attacks occurred within the same year was in 1998.”
Travis Kauffman, jogger
On Feb. 4 near Fort Collins, Kauffman was attacked by a mountain lion while jogging and was able to fight off and kill it with his bare hands.
The attacking lion was young, around 50 pounds according to NBC News. Kauffman yelled at the lion when it lunged at him and latched onto his arm. After what he referred to as a “wrestling match,” he was able to strangle the cat. After the incident, another couple out hiking helped Kauffman to the hospital where he was treated for his wounds.
Mark Vieira, the Carnivore and Furbearer Program manager at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told MeatEater that the attack on Kauffman was not based on a fight-or-flight response; the jogger didn’t startle and corner it.
“In my experience with lions, if you are in front of them but their path is almost unimpeded anywhere else, if they really want to get away from you, they are going to go away,” he said. “In this example, that was obviously not the case.”
This attack seems to be predatory in nature. This animal displayed aggressive behavior and, even when faced by the jogger, he still decided to attack, according to Vieira. This may have been due to the age of the lion and its lack of experience hunting alone.
Although it was a young lion, these animals are powerful and effective predators. Kauffman was lucky to not end up with more severe injuries from going hand-to-hand with those claws and teeth.
Richard Marriot, elk hunter
On Aug. 10 near Kremmling, Marriot was out scouting for elk when he realized he was the one being hunted. Luckily he had a sidearm—a dull pocketknife—and was able to defend himself from the attacker.
After finishing his day of scouting, Marriot was walking back to his truck when heard rustling behind him. He turned around to see a mountain lion.
According to Sky-Hi News, Marriot pulled out his pocket knife and walked backwards away from the lion for 150 or 200 yards. Then he tripped and fell over, which spurred the lion to attack. Marriot was able to fight back, stabbing the cougar in the face with his knife. He regained his feet and started throwing rocks. One large rock hit the cat in the head and scared it away. The next morning, Marriot went back with wildlife officers who tracked the animal and killed it.
This cougar had a lot of time to determine that Marriot was not a normal source of prey, but it continued to pursue him anyway. This is not the norm with animal attacks. Marriot did everything right, and the lion still attacked him.
In response to this case, Vieira referenced another attack in North Bend, Washington.
“These are rare cases where people are doing all the right stuff,” Vieira said. “They’re saying ‘I’m big, I’m making noise, I’m not your usual prey source’ and in these few instances these animals, due to inexperience or other underlying factors, are still choosing to engage the people.”
This attack was also clearly predatory. According to Vieira, the animal in this attack was a young male cat, 1 or 2 years old, and approximately 90 pounds. Just like the first case, could have been an inexperienced hunter, thinking that Marriot was a prey source.
Bailey Neighborhood Attack
The most recent attack on Aug. 21 was rather disturbing. Pike Carlson, an 8-year-old boy, was attacked by a mountain lion while playing in the backyard of his family’s mountain town home. The boy sustained serious injuries and had to be hospitalized for treatment.
A press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife gave details about the attack. The boy and his brother were playing on a trampoline, then he ran to say hello to a neighbor. As he was running across the yard, the mountain lion attacked, biting the boy’s head. His brother went inside to get their father, who was able to scare the lion away.
According to a second release from CPW, they found and killed the lion along with one other living in close proximity. A lab used DNA to verify one was the cougar that attacked the boy. Both of the lions were also tested to see if they were involved in the killing of a domestic goat around the same time. Both tested positive.
These two cougars were living in close proximity to humans which made them a risk for people in the area.
“When we have bears or lions that are involved in a physical attack on people, we are going to take human health and safety as the paramount interest.” Vieira said. “If we can remove those animals, we will do an evaluation to see if those were the individuals that we are targeting.”
This mountain lion was also clearly on the hunt.
“In this case you had a child, a little smaller target and moving and unfortunately [he] was ambushed,” Vieira said. “That’s how lions hunt, they are stalking predators and the lion was obviously already very close to people in those backyards. In this case, [it] saw that movement and saw that young child as a potential meal.”
Just as in the previous attacks, these lions were relatively young. According to the press release, they were both estimated to be around a year old, weighing only 65 pounds. This seems to be the corresponding factor between the three cases. As both human and lion populations continue to grow, these younger, naïve lions may be more likely to consider humans as prey.
Feature image via WikiCommons.