The bloodied Colorado trail runner who fought off a rare mountain lion attack pummeled the young cat with a rock, wrestled it to the ground and ultimately choked the animal to death with his hands, arms and feet, state wildlife officials said Tuesday.
The man — who is his 30s and has yet to be publicly identified — was released from a hospital Tuesday morning after being treated for bite wounds and lacerations to his face and arms.
“This is crazy but true. We have no reason to believe that this is a hoax,” said Rebecca Ferrell, spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The shocking tale of survival on Larimer County’s Horsetooth Mountain quickly spread far beyond Colorado, with news of Monday’s attack prompting media calls from around the world, as well as suggestions of film and book deals, and even marriage proposals, Ferrell said. Gov. Jared Polis chimed in too, posting on his Facebook page: “Don’t mess with Colorado trail runners.”
“He should never have to buy another beer in his life,” Ferrell said.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Ferrell offered the most complete description yet of the life-and-death struggle between the runner and the wild cat in the 2,711-acre park west of Fort Collins.
The man previously had researched how to respond to a mountain lion attack and did everything right. “Not only is he brave, but he is very conscientious,” she said. “He was also as prepared as they come.”
The victim was running Monday on West Ridge Trail in the Larimer County foothills when he heard something behind him, Ferrell said.
The man whipped his head around and saw a mountain lion that wildlife officials believe was less than a year old stalking him.
He locked eyes with the cat, she said.
He yelled at the animal and waved his arms over his head to make himself look bigger.
“The mountain lion pounced anyway,” Ferrell said.
As it went for his head and neck, the man blocked the cat with his forearms, but the mountain lion bit him on the face and clamped its fangs on the man’s wrist — and wouldn’t let go, Ferrell said.
The man picked up a rock with his free hand and pounded the cat in the head, but the animal hung on. He then put the lion in a headlock and wrestled and scrapped with the creature on the trail, Ferrell said.
When he finally managed to free his wrist from the cat’s jaws, the runner counterattacked. He jumped on the mountain lion’s back, and, using his hands, arms and feet, he choked the animal to death, she said.
He then hiked to his car and drove to a local hospital.
“It’s an amazing story. Everyone is baffled and impressed,” Ferrell said. “He had no weapons, no knives or trekking poles with him.”
“A few days to decompress”
Wildlife officers spoke with the survivor of the mountain lion attack Tuesday while he was recuperating.
“We can let you know that the runner is doing well considering his ordeal, and will need a few days to decompress before deciding if he will speak publicly,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
Wildlife officers also searched the trail where the runner told them his fight with the mountain lion took place, Ferrell said. They found the dead mountain lion within feet of possessions the victim had asked officers to look for. The lion’s appearance and wounds matched the runner’s description completely, Ferrell said.
On Tuesday afternoon, rangers put up yellow tape and closed the entrance of the trail where the attack took place because of the larger number of bystanders and media personnel in the area. Ferrell called it a “cooling off” period.
Although preliminary information from the necropsy confirmed the jogger’s story about the cause of death, detailed information about the mountain lion’s injuries have not been released and could take several days before they are made public, she said.
Doctors treated him for possible infections, she said. Medical staff already have confirmed the lion tested negative for rabies, “which is very welcome news,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said.
Fight for your life
Mountain lion attacks in Colorado are rare, officials said. The act of running may have triggered the young lion’s instinct to hunt.
“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.”
“The runner did everything he could to save his life,” said Mark Leslie, Colorado Parks and Wildlife northeast region manager.
Ferrell said there are different survival strategies when a wild animal attacks a human. For some, the best strategy is to curl up and make yourself as small as possible. Not so with a mountain lion, she said.
People attacked by mountain lions should do exactly what this victim did: Fight for your life.
To avoid a physical confrontation, a person should yell, throw rocks and make themselves appear bigger by standing tall and waving their arms and facing the mountain lion, Ferrell said.
“With a mountain lion, your best chance is to fight. If you make yourself small, they will think you are prey,” Ferrell said.
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