LOVELAND, Colo. – Trails at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space will reopen to the public today, Wednesday, Feb. 13, following the attack of a mountain lion on a trail runner last week.

Horsetooth Mountain and Soderberg trailheads, which access Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, have been closed since Tuesday, Feb. 5 due to public safety concerns.

Since the incident, Larimer County rangers have been assisting state wildlife officers with assessing mountain lion activity at the popular open space west of Fort Collins to determine when to reopen the site. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, wildlife officers placed trail cameras in the vicinity of the attack to assess mountain lion activity. 

Over the weekend, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers captured two juvenile mountain lions at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. Wildlife officers will be moving the mountain lions to a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to release the mountain lions back into the wild at a future date. A full report will be given on Thursday, Feb. 14.

"We have removed additional lions that we believe are siblings of the lion involved in last Monday's attack," said Mark Leslie, northeast region manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "The Front Range of Colorado plays home to many of Colorado's wildlife and we have an expanding urban interface and increased recreation pressure. The interaction between wildlife and people is going to increase and we need to find a way to balance the needs of people and the needs of wildlife."

With the assessment completed, Larimer County officials have decided to reopen Horsetooth Mountain Open Space to the public today.

"People should be aware that reopening Horsetooth Mountain Open Space to the public does not mean there are no mountain lions in the area," said Steve Gibson, district manager for Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. "While it's located close to urban areas, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space is a wild place that supports many different animals. There will always be a chance to encounter wildlife on the property, including normally elusive mountain lions."

"It's important for people to recreate with wildlife in mind. We want people to enjoy these spaces, but we live close to these animals and we have to understand that there are times when you may come across something on the trail," said Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

On the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 4, a mountain lion attacked a trail runner on the West Ridge Trail, one of the more remote areas of Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. The runner killed the juvenile lion in self-defense before going to a local hospital, where he was treated and released the following day. Larimer County rangers and state wildlife officers found the deceased mountain lion on the evening of the attack. During stepped up patrols on Tuesday, Feb. 5, a Larimer County ranger encountered two additional mountain lions near the scene of the attack, prompting the temporary closure to all trails at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space due to concerns for public safety.

"We appreciate everyone’s patience while we completed the assessment of mountain lion activity," Gibson said. "The safety of our visitors will always be a top priority."

Horsetooth Mountain Open Space was conserved back in the 1980s due, in part, to its valuable wildlife habitat and to provide a place for wildlife to live on the Front Range. The allure of the area for many visitors is getting the chance to get a glimpse at the wildlife with which we all share this special place. Larimer County staff is planning to provide educational opportunities about recreating in mountain lion habitat for visitors to Horsetooth Mountain Open Space.

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

Published on: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 8:20am
Contact Details:

Steve Gibson, Red Mountain District Manager for Larimer County, (970) 498-5621

Rebecca Ferrell, Statewide Public Information Officer for CPW, (720) 595-1449

Lauren Truitt, Public Information and Website Manager for CPW, (720) 498-0472

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