What to know about Colorado mountain lion safety after weekend attack on man in hot tub

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is searching for a mountain lion believed to have attacked a man while he was in a hot tub at a rental home in Chaffee County this weekend.

Here's what we know about the attack from a Colorado Parks and Wildlife news release. We've also included information on safety.

How was the man attacked?

The man told Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers the attack happened about 8 p.m. Saturday when he and his wife were sitting in an in-ground hot tub located away from the rental home, which is in what the state wildlife agency described as a "heavily wooded subdivision" located about 5 miles west of Nathrop along Chalk Creek. It's at least a two-hour drive west from Colorado Springs.

According to the news release, the man "felt something grab his head." Both he and his wife screamed and splashed water at the animal, which they identified as a mountain lion after his wife shone a flashlight on it.

How did they get the mountain lion to leave?

The state wildlife agency attributed the mountain lion leaving to the "light and commotion" from the couple, noting the mountain lion retreated about 20 feet away. According to the news release, the mountain lion moved farther away after they continued to scream at it, but it continued to watch them from the top of a nearby hill.

The man and his wife were able to get back inside the rental house after that.

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What injuries did the mountain lion attack cause?

The man had four scratches — described as superficial by the state wildlife agency — on the top of his head and by one of his ears. The couple cleaned the scratches and called the owner of the rental property once they got inside. The property owner called Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Did they try to find the mountain lion?

Yes. Two wildlife officers started looking for it as soon as they got on scene but couldn't find any tracks because of freezing temperatures and snow on the ground being frozen.

They decided not to use tracking hounds "given the scattered housing in the subdivision and the scene's proximity to the nearby Mountain Princeton Hot Springs Resort complex about a mile east."

They set a trap near the area but had not caught the mountain lion as of the Monday news release.

What do wildlife officers think prompted the mountain lion to attack?

Here's the theory shared by Sean Shepherd, area wildlife manager based in Salida, in the news release:

"We think it's likely the mountain lion saw the man’s head move in the darkness at ground-level but didn’t recognize the people in the hot tub. The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion."

What's Colorado Parks and Wildlife doing to warn others in the area?

"Although this victim had only minor injuries, we take this incident seriously," Shepherd said in the news release. "We have alerted neighbors and posted signs warning of lion activity. And we will continue to track the lion and lion activity.”

What should I do if a mountain lion is approaching me?

Here are some tips from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

  • "Stand your ground" and don't turn or run away.

  • Start by speaking "calmly and in a deep voice," but "yell loudly" if the mountain lion doesn't leave.

  • If the mountain lion keeps coming toward you, "raise your arms, wave a coat, brandish a stick, throw rocks, branches, a backpack, a bicycle" and "back away slowly" while watching it.

  • If you're attacked, "fight back aggressively."

Aggressive mountain lions should be reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife right away. You can also call 911.

How do I report a mountain lion sighting?

If you're in the area of Saturday's attack, call Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Salida office at 719-530-5520 or if it's after business hours, call Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424.

If you're closer to Larimer County and you think you saw a mountain lion in an urban or unsafe area, report the sighting to Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Northeast Region Office at 303-291-7227 (not Larimer Humane Society).

Reporting sightings helps the state wildlife agency determine an animal's whereabouts and what, if anything, to do about it.

What can I do to prevent a mountain lion attack?

Here are some safety tips Colorado Parks and Wildlife shared in the news release:

  • Be noisy when you're coming or going anywhere from dusk to dawn. That's when mountain lions are most active.

  • Make sure you have outdoor lighting that illuminates areas you walk. This will help you see a mountain lion if there is one.

  • Watch kids while they play outside, and make sure they stay inside from before dusk until after dawn. Talk with them about mountain lions and make sure they know what to do if they come across one.

  • Make it harder for mountain lions to hide by landscaping and/or taking away vegetation that could provide a hiding place. This will make it harder for them to approach without being seen.

  • Don't plant things deer like to eat, including nonnative shrubs and plants, and don't feed wildlife. "Predators follow prey," the state wildlife agency warned. On a similar note, keep your garbage secure and don't feed your pets outside, as that pet food and trash can attract racoons or other animals mountain lions eat.

  • Make sure your pets are under control and that they are inside at night. Loose pets are prey to mountain lions. If you have to keep your pet outside, make sure they're in a kennel that has a secure top. On a similar note, keep livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night, and make sure you close doors to outbuildings "since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look."

When was the most recent mountain lion attack in Colorado?

This attack was the first reported mountain lion attack on a human in the state since Feb. 27, 2022, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It's the 24th known attack on a human to cause injury since 1990, and three other mountain lion attacks on humans since 1990 have been fatal in Colorado.

Some of the attacks have been in the Larimer County area. In March 2020, a rabid mountain lion attacked two people, including a sheriff's deputy, west of Loveland. That mountain lion was found at a nearby home and shot by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers about an hour after the attack. In February 2019, a local runner was attacked by a young mountain lion while running on ice-covered trails west of Fort Collins. The man fought and killed the mountain lion during the attack.

The state wildlife agency doesn't call mountain lion depredations of pets or other animals attacks.

Where can I learn more about mountain lions in Colorado?

Visit the state wildlife agency's information page at cpw.state.co.us/lions.

Coloradoan reporter Miles Blumhardt has also done several pieces on how to reduce interactions with wildlife, including mountain lions. Here are a few stories to check out:

Coloradoan reporters Miles Blumhardt and Sady Swanson contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Colorado mountain lion attack in Chaffee County injures 1