Photograph courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife
NATHROP, Colo. – A man sitting in an in-ground hot tub was clawed in the head by a mountain lion on Saturday night, prompting Colorado Parks and Wildlife to launch a search for the animal.
CPW officers were alerted to the incident around 10 p.m., Saturday, and four wildlife officers responded to the scene – a rental home in a heavily wooded subdivision about five miles west of Nathrop along Chalk Creek.
The victim had four superficial scratches on top of his head and near his right ear. By the time CPW was alerted and responded, the victim had cleaned the wounds and declined any medical assistance. The officers determined the injuries were consistent with the claw of a mountain lion.
The victim told the officers he and his wife were sitting in a hot tub, which is located in the ground and away from the house, at about 8 p.m. when he felt something grab his head. He and his wife began screaming and splashing water at the animal. The victim’s wife grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the animal, which they then identified as a mountain lion.
The light and commotion caused the mountain lion to retreat about 20 feet from the couple in the hot tub. They continued to scream at the mountain lion and after a short time it moved up to the top of a hill near some rocks where it crouched down and continued to watch the couple.
They were then able to get out of the hot tub and return to the rental house. Inside, they cleaned the scratches and called the property owner who then alerted CPW officers.
The first two CPW officers on the scene immediately began searching for the lion, following a steep ridge along the creek. No mountain lion tracks could be found due to the freezing temperatures and frozen snow on the ground.
CPW officers decided tracking with hounds likely would not be successful given the scattered housing in the subdivision and the scene’s proximity to the nearby Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort complex about a mile east. A trap was set nearby in hopes of catching the lion.
“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,” said Sean Shepherd, Area Wildlife Manager based in Salida. “The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion. Although this victim had only minor injuries, we take this incident seriously. We have alerted neighbors and posted signs warning of lion activity. And we will continue to track the lion and lion activity.”
CPW encourages residents to keep reporting mountain lion sightings or activity near their homes; they can do so by calling CPW’s Salida office at 719-530-5520 or calling Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424 after business hours.
Saturday night’s incident is the first reported mountain lion attack of a human in Colorado since Feb. 27, 2022. This is the 24th known attack of a mountain lion causing injury to a human in Colorado since 1990. Three other attacks in Colorado since 1990 have resulted in human deaths. CPW does not characterize lion depredation of pets or other animals as attacks.
Though mountain lion attacks are relatively rare, it is important to know how to avoid or manage potential encounters. To learn more about living with mountain lions in Colorado, go to https://cpw.state.co.us/lions.
Wildlife officers will continue to monitor lion activity in the Nathrop area. Officials do encourage residents to keep reporting mountain lion sightings or activity near their homes; they can do so by calling CPW’s Salida office at 719-530-5520 or calling Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424 after business hours.
To reduce the risk of problems with mountain lions on or near your property, CPW urges you to follow these simple precautions:
– Make lots of noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active: dusk to dawn.
– Install outside lighting. Light areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one were present.
– Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
– Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding places for lions. Make it difficult for lions to approach unseen.
– Planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer often prefer to eat encourages wildlife to come onto your property. Predators follow prey. Never feed any wildlife.
– Keep your pet under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. If you leave your pet outside, keep it in a kennel with a secure top. Don’t feed pets outside; this can attract raccoons and other animals that are eaten by lions. Store all garbage securely.
– Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close doors to all outbuildings since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.