Park Reopened After Two Close Mountain Lion Encounters

By  | 

Cheyenne Mountain State Park has been reopened after an attempt to find and kill an aggressive mountain lion.

The Division of Parks and Wildlife decided to act after two close encounters Friday with the mountain lion on a widely-used trail close to the main parking lot.

A park ranger tells 11 News Monday that wildlife officials eventually found the mountain lion and shot it, wounding but not killing it.

The first encounter happened when a man was running on the Sundance Trail Friday afternoon, where he came across the mountain lion eating a deer carcass. The man stood his ground, made noise, and then backed away.

About 20 minutes later a female runner, KKTV employee Lindsey Grewe, passed the same area and the mountain lion started to chase her. Lindsey was able to escape by going off-trail and scrambling through brush, and was rescued by park rangers who heard her screams.

She tells us that she suffered a sprained knee, but is otherwise okay.

According to Lindsey, she noticed nothing out of the ordinary as she approached the spot where she ended up encountering the mountain lion, and had actually passed two hikers going in the opposite direction less than a minute before seeing it. She says the mountain lion must not have made itself known to that couple, because they said nothing to her as they passed her.

Lindsey said she heard a branch snap next to the trail, and turned around thinking it was a deer--only to see the mountain lion standing just inches from her. She said she never intended to go off-trail, but was forced to after it lunged at her as she was trying to back away from the area.

"In my frantic state, I guess I was thinking I had a better chance if there were things obstructing the mountain lion from getting to me...I knew before I did it that it was a bad idea, but I just felt like I had no choice but to dive into the bushes when it started coming at me. I felt too vulnerable on an open trail."

Before that, Lindsey says she was trying to make herself big and back away slowly on the trail.

"For a couple of minutes I thought it was going to let me get away. Even though it got on the trail after it saw me, it just stood there, so I thought it was going to let me go. Then it crouched and started coming at me."

DOW does not recommend going off-trail like Lindsey did to escape wild animals, and Lindsey agrees that she was very fortunate that her decision to do so didn't cost her anything more than a sprained knee.

"The trail I was on is a loop, and by the time the rangers found me I was near the center of that loop. There were points while I was trying to escape that I really thought I might die. I was nowhere near where people would be, and the mountain lion was not giving up its pursuit. I was growing scared that no one would hear me screaming in time.

"I kept praying to God the entire time...I cried when the park rangers finally found me because I couldn't believe I was safe."

Park rangers told Lindsey that the mountain lion was likely trying to scare her away from the area rather than viewing her as prey, and that's why it didn't actually catch her. However, Lindsey says they were surprised it pursued her as far as it did. They were also surprised it made itself known to two people.

Park rangers and wildlife officials say the reason they chose to shoot the mountain lion is because of the "unusual, aggressive behavior" it showed. Mountain lion sightings are rare, and rangers say they generally do not get as close to people, nor as aggressive, as the one did Friday, making the mountain lion a danger to people in the park. The Sundance Trail is not a back country trail--it is one of the closest trails to the visitor center, and the area the mountain lion was seen in is one frequently traveled by runners, bikers and even families with young children.