Mountain lion attacks Colorado man sitting in hot tub

Stock photo of mountain lion; this is not the one involved in the March 18, 2023, attack.
Stock photo of mountain lion; this is not the one involved in the March 18, 2023, attack.(Eric Kilby / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:53 AM MDT
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CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - It was a lucky near-miss for a man who had an unnervingly close call with a mountain lion over the weekend.

Wildlife officers say he escaped with just a few scratches -- despite the animal actually making contact.

According to the victim, he and his wife were relaxing in a hot tub outside a home near Nathrop Saturday night 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,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. “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.”

The couple was then able to get out of the hot tub and run towards the safety of the house. They called the property owner, who as luck would have it, works for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and knew what to do.

“[The property owner] 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,” Parks and Wildlife said.

Wildlife officers set up a trap, but to date have not located the mountain lion.

Mountain lion attacks are rare, but not unheard of: Colorado Parks and Wildlife says this was the 24th attack causing injury to a human in Colorado since 1990. Three people have been killed in mountain lion attack in Colorado in that same time frame.

The victim in this attack was exceedingly fortunate, with just those few superficial scratches. CPW says the man was able to clean and treat the scratches at home.

“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. “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.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the home was located about 5 miles from town and described the subdivision as “heavily wooded.” The hot tub was set away from the home. Mountain lions are most active early in the morning and in the evening; Saturday’s incident happened around 8 p.m.

Anyone in the area who sees a mountain lion is encouraged to report the sighting to CPW by calling the Salida office at 719-530-5520 or calling Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424 if it’s after CPW business hours.

To avoid mountain lion encounters, wildlife officers have the following tips:

- 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.