LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A mountain lion attack, which injured a runner near Fort Collins Monday, is sparking ongoing discussions about safety in Colorado’s open space.
“If a mountain lion is able to determine that you’re a human, they’re going to leave you alone,” said David Neils, a Wildlife Conservationist.
Neils has been studying mountain lions and educating the public for more than 14 years. He has nearly 30 trail cameras setup across the state and regularly captures the movement of Colorado’s mountain lion population.
Friday, CBS4 tagged along with Neils to Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Loveland; a ranch with 3,500 acres of prime mountain lion territory, Neils has 11 trail cameras set up across the property.
“There are three lions that have been using this trail in the last three months and one new lion, a big male,” said Neils.
He checked on one of the cameras which recently captured some coyotes and a bobcat, but no mountain lions. Each camera can last close to three months with a lithium batteries. Over the last few months, they have captured many lions.
Neils says the area has a healthy lion population, a sign of a healthy ecosystem.
“That brings me joy. That makes me smile, and I’m just happy that I get to experience the area with the apex predator simultaneously.”
Neils believes the more people know, the less they will fear.
He says Monday’s attack of a runner is rare. Mountain lions don’t intentionally prey on humans.
“If you’re small like 5’5” or shorter and you’re running by yourself at daybreak, you’ve increased your odds of potentially initiating an attack.”
Daybreak and dusk are typical hunting times for lions. Neils says the chances of an attack on a human are 1 in 300 million.
“If mountain lions considered us as prey there would be dozens of attacks in Colorado alone every week.”
Neils hopes his research and passion for the lion population will help others understand the animal’s behavior.
“We don’t have a mountain lion problem at Horsetooth Mountain Park. We just have a situation where people are recreating in an area where there are mountain lions and they just have to be aware.”
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. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly and never turn your back on it.
- Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. 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.
- If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back.
- Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
- Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. 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. Remain standing or try to get back up!