DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado jogger strangled a juvenile mountain lion in the foothills of Horsetooth Mountain northwest of Denver, acting in self-defense after the predator attacked him, authorities said on Tuesday.
The man, who was not identified, survived the life-and-death struggle in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, a mountain park less than 70 miles (110 km) from Denver, officials said.
The man was running on a trail when the juvenile cougar attacked him from behind, biting and clawing his face, back, legs and arms, state and local officials said in a joint statement late on Monday.
During the struggle, the man strangled the wild animal with his bare hands, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell said by phone on Tuesday.
“There was some wrestling going on and the cat did latch onto his arm but he was able to choke it,” she said.
The size of the cougar was unclear, Ferrell said, because other animals fed on the carcass before wildlife officers arrived. But it is believed it was a male.
The runner went to a hospital, officials said, with injuries that were serious but not life-threatening.
The remainder of the animal’s body was recovered near the trail, where the jogger had dropped some possessions, and taken to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife lab for a necropsy, officials said.
“The runner did everything he could to save his life,” said Mark Leslie, CPW Northeast Regional Manager. “In the event of a lion attack, you need to do anything in your power to fight back, just as this gentleman did.”
Mountain lion attacks have caused fewer than 20 fatalities in the United States in the past 100 years. Sixteen known attacks have occurred in Colorado since 1990, officials said.
“Mountain lion attacks are not common in Colorado and it is unfortunate that the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the runner,” Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for the CPW, said in a statement. “This could have had a very different outcome.”
Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Dan Grebler