LOVELAND, Colo. – Trails at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space will be temporarily closed after an attack of a mountain lion on a trail runner on the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 4.

The Horsetooth Mountain and Soderberg trailheads, which access the open space, will be closed to the public to protect visitor safety following the incident. Larimer County rangers will reassess the situation on Friday, Feb. 8 with Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers before reopening the popular open space.

"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."

Larimer County rangers and CPW officers investigated the scene of the attack Monday and found the mountain lion responsible for the incident was deceased. The runner had been able to defend himself during the attack, resulting in the death of the juvenile mountain lion that attacked him.

Trails at the popular open space reopened Monday evening after the scene was evaluated by state wildlife experts and Larimer County rangers. But after stepping up patrols on Tuesday to ensure trails remain safe for visitors, County rangers encountered additional mountain lion activity in the area. Larimer County rangers closed all trails at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space on Tuesday afternoon after consulting with CPW officers, who supported the closure.

"The safety of our visitors is paramount," Brink said. "We'll reopen Horsetooth Mountain when we’ve had more time to assess mountain lion activity in the area with our partners at CPW."

The attack on Monday occurred on the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, a more remote area of the property. The victim survived the attack and was treated and released from a local hospital. Larimer County rangers and CPW officers are continuing to investigate the incident.

Mountain lion attacks on people are extremely rare, with fewer than 20 fatalities in North America in more than 100 years, according to CPW. Since 1990, Colorado has had 16 injuries as a result of mountain lion attacks and three fatalities.

"Mountain lion attacks are uncommon, but people should remember that they are recreating in lion habitat when they visit Horsetooth Mountain Open Space," said Steve Gibson, district manager for Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.

CPW provides the following tips for what to do if you encounter a mountain lion on the trail:

  • 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.
  • Convince the lion you are not prey. If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can 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. Target the eyes and nose as these are sensitive areas. Remain standing or try to get back up!

For more details on the incident, please read the CPW news release.

For more information about precautions being taken at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, please contact Brink at (970) 619-4555 or kbrink@larimer.org.

Published on: 
Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - 12:55pm
Contact Details:

Ken Brink Jr., Visitor Services Program Manager, (970) 619-4555

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