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How trail runner killed Horsetooth cougar


Here are some tips from Colorado Parks and Wildlife for living safely in mountain lion country.
Sady Swanson

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Horsetooth Mountain Park will remain closed through Friday following an attack on a trail runner by a mountain lion, wildlife officials say. The runner, who has been released from a local hospital, choked the cougar to death.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said Tuesday the mountain lion was less than a year old and weighed less than 100 pounds. 

The runner, who has not yet been publicly identified, had puncture wounds and lacerations but is doing well and recovering from his wounds. According to Larimer County Natural Resources, he has been released from the hospital.

The mountain lion tested negative for rabies, but other diseases have not yet been ruled out because CPW has not yet completed its investigation.

Larimer County issued a release Tuesday that said the park will be closed until rangers can reassess the situation Friday along with CPW officers.

“We want to allow for a cooling off period before reopening Horsetooth Mountain Open Space,” said Ken Brink Jr., visitor services manager for Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. “We are approaching this situation with an abundance of caution for the safety of our visitors.”

The park had reopened Monday evening after the scene was evaluated by state wildlife experts and Larimer County rangers and the mountain lion was found dead. But county rangers encountered additional mountain lion activity in the area after stepping up patrols Tuesday and decided to shut down the park later that afternoon.

“We’ll reopen Horsetooth Mountain when we’ve had more time to assess mountain lion activity in the area with our partners at CPW,” Brinks said.

Tara Radcliffe, who lives near the park and runs in the park regularly, said she ran in the park Monday after the incident took place and when she was finishing her run, she noticed the trails were closed. She ran Tuesday morning and said the parking lot and trails were open.

“I passed several people (Tuesday) on the run down, and everyone I saw asked if I saw anything,” she said. “People are probably a little paranoid. … It’s a little more eerie than usual up here.”

Ty Petersburg, CPW wildlife manager, told KUSA-TV in Denver the man did everything the agency asks people to: He put his hands in the air, made a lot of noise and stood his ground.

“At that point, it was kind of a fight for survival between him and lion,” Petersburg told the station. “The lion was upon his upper body and the man was able to fight the animal off and kill it at the end of it in self-defense, and then get himself off the trail into a car.

“(The man) didn’t have any weapons … He was really creative. He used his hands, feet — things that were around him, and really it was just a fight for survival.”

CPW officials confirmed the man’s account of the attack through their investigation and examining the juvenile mountain lion.

The runner told officials he heard something behind him on the trail and as he turned, he was attacked. He said he was bitten on his face and wrist but was able to fight and break free from the lion.

Wildlife officers found the mountain lion dead near where the incident took place while looking for items the runner asked them to look for along on the trail. 

“In the event of a lion attack, you need to do anything in your power to fight back just as this gentleman did,” said Mark Leslie, CPW’s Northeast Region manager.


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