A hiker from Colorado is lucky to be alive after a dangerous encounter with a mountain lion this week.
The unidentified man was running a trail in the Horsetooth Mountain Park on Monday when he crossed paths with the big cat.
Officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife say the runner could tell something was following him. When he turned to see what it was, the lion attacked him, biting his face and arm.
The hiker reportedly fought back against the predator with his bare hands, and even managed to suffocate the animal in what officials call self-defense.
Incredibly, officials also said the injured man hiked to a nearby hospital after the attack, where he shared his unbelievable story with police.
Mountain lions, also called cougars, can grow to be eight feet long and normally weigh more than 100 pounds. While they resemble large house cats, they have strong claws and jaws meant to hunt down prey as large as deer.
Police say the mountain lion they recovered from the scene of the attack was probably a juvenile, as it weighed in at around 80 pounds.
Post-mortem tests also confirmed that the animal did not have rabies.
A reminder that living in Colorado means living among our wildlife. Our website has several great resources, including brochures about how to live and recreate with a variety of species. See our Living with Lions brochure for more information: https://t.co/9t0vPivxdz pic.twitter.com/NvoP9C3pUE— CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) February 5, 2019
Don't let this story scare you off the running trails: mountain lion attacks are very uncommon. In the last 100 years there have been less than 20 deaths connected to mountain lions nationwide.
Since 1991, Colorado specifically had seen less than 20 mountain lion attacks, but three fatalities blamed on or strongly linked to the animals.
While losing any animal in circumstances like this is unfortunate, the state's Parks and Wildlife Department does not hold a grudge against the hiker.
"This could have had a very different outcome," the department's manager Ty Petersburg told The Denver Post
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. We hope you all can appreciate and respect why he needs this time.— CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) February 5, 2019
Horsetooth Mountain Park remains closed while the investigation continues, but could reopen as early as Friday.
And, in case you were wondering, experts have tips that could protect you during a mountain lion attack:
- Don't run - this could encourage the lion to chase you.
- Stand up straight and make yourself look tall by raising your arms.
- Don't turn your back on the lion.
- Talk firmly to the lion to try and scare it off.
- If the lion attacks, fight back with anything within reach - rocks, sticks, clothing, or your bare hands.
- Target the lion's eyes or nose.
[H/T: The Coloradoan]