Runner kills mountain lion in self defense after attack at Horsetooth Rock

Ravyn Cullor

A runner near Horsetooth Rock found himself face-to-face with a mountain lion on the hunt and was able to escape with his life, according to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife press release.

The man was running on the West Ridge Trail in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space Feb. 4 when he heard something behind him. According to the release, when the runner turned around, a juvenile mountain lion lunged at him and bit the runner’s face and wrist.

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The runner fought back and was able to choke the lion to death, said Rebecca Ferrell of CPW. He was then able to get off the mountain and to a local hospital on his own. Wildlife officers found the body of the lion on the trail near items the runner asked them to find.

“This gentleman did everything right; he fought back and got back on his feet,” Ferrell said.

According to the press release, mountain lion attacks are uncommon in Colorado, with fewer than 20 fatalities in North America in more than 100 years. Since 1990, Colorado had 16 injuries and three fatalities as a result of mountain lion attacks.

What to do if you encounter a mountain lion:

-Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.


-Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Move slowly and never turn your back on it.


-Stop; don’t run. Running may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.


-Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you’re wearing one.

-If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won’t panic and run.


-convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to it.


-Fight back if a lion attacks you. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands successfully. We recommend targeting the eyes and nose, as these are sensitive areas. 

Ferrell says CPW is not yet sure why the lion attacked, but they believe that the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the running. A necropsy will be performed to determine if there were any other factors, like disease, that caused the lion to attack.

In a press release to The Collegian, Larimer County Natural Resources announced that the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space will be temporarily closed starting Feb. 5 due to “newly discovered” mountain lion activity in the area. 

Although mountain lions tend to avoid humans, according to the Parks Service, CPW has a number of recommendations for potential encounters with mountain lions. These include appearing large, refraining from running, speaking to the lion in a calm and quiet voice and if the lion attacks, fighting back.

“If a lion attacks you, use anything you have—keys, hiking poles, a pocket knife—to do everything you can to fight back,” Ferrell said. 

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @RCullor99.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the closing of Horsetooth Mountain Open Space.