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Man suffers minor injuries after mountain lion claws his head Saturday evening, wildlife officials say

This is the first attack on a human in more than a year, CPW says
Mountain Lion Killed
Posted at 1:40 PM, Mar 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-20 18:02:01-04

NATHROP, Colo. — A mountain lion clawed the head of a man who was sitting in a hot tub of a rental house in Chaffee County Saturday evening – the first reported attack on a human in more than a year, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials.

The attack happened at around 8 p.m. Saturday, as the man and his wife were sitting in the hot tub, which officers said was located in the ground and away from the house.

The man told wildlife officers he was sitting in the hot tub when he felt something grab his head. The couple then began screaming and splashing water at the intruder, whom they were able to identify as a mountain lion after shining a flashlight at the animal.

The man, who suffered minor injuries, and his wife then went inside to clean the man’s scratches and reached out to the owner of the rental house, who then alerted Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) around 10 p.m. Saturday.

A CPW spokesperson said four wildlife officers responded to the scene of the attack. The house was in a heavily wooded subdivision near Chalk Creek, a few miles west of Nathrop.

Immediately, two of the four officers began searching for the mountain lion following a steep ridge along the creek but no tracks could be found due to the freezing temperatures and frozen snow on the ground, officials said.

A trap was set up nearby in hopes of catching the mountain lion.

The officers said they saw four superficial scratches on the top of his head and near his ear. By that point, the man had already cleaned the wounds and declined medical assistance, the spokesperson said.

The responding wildlife officers confirmed that the scratches were consistent with a swipe from a mountain lion’s paw.

“We think it's likely the mountain lion saw the man’s head move in the darkness at ground-level but didn’t recognize the people in the hot tub,” said Sean Shepherd, area wildlife manager based in Salida. “The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion. Although this victim had only minor injuries, we take this incident seriously. We have alerted neighbors and posted signs warning of lion activity. And we will continue to track the lion and lion activity.”

What do to if you spot a mountain lion

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a few tips on what to do if you come face to face with a mountain lion.

  • Make lots of noise if you come into contact with one, especially at dusk or dawn.
  • Install outdoor lighting. Light areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one is present.
  • Closely supervise children whenever playing outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
  • Keep your pets under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. Do not leave pet food outside as it attracts smaller rodents and raccoons that are eaten by lions. Store garbage securely.
  • Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close doors to all outbuildings since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.

Wildlife officers will continue to monitor lion activity in the Nathrop area, the spokesperson said. Officials encourage residents to keep reporting mountain lion sightings or activity near their homes; they can do so by calling CPW’s Salida office at 719-530-5520 or calling Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424 after business hours.

Saturday night’s attack is the 24th known attack of a mountain lion causing injury to a human in Colorado since 1990 and the first since Feb. 27, 2022. Three other attacks in Colorado since 1990 have resulted in human deaths. CPW does not characterize lion depredation of pets or other animals as attacks.

More information about how to avoid or manage potential encounters with mountain lions in Colorado can be found here.

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