MORRISON, Colo. (CBS4) - A scary encounter took place for a man and his dog in Jefferson County when they came face to face with a mountain lion.
Geof Stephenson and his dog, Stella, have hiked the Wild Turkey Trail near the Red Rocks Country Club for years. Rarely does Stella walk off-leash, but last Sunday morning she was allowed to roam free.
"I should've known better," Stephenson said.
When Stephenson tried to call Stella back to the trail she didn't listen. Moments later, he said, he heard his dog yelping.
"Next thing I know she comes running down the hill and right behind her, literally a foot or two off her rear end was a big mountain lion," Stephenson told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann.
The large cat was upwards of 250 pounds, Stephenson described, and came within 10 feet of him as Stella hid behind her owner.
"We literally looked eye to eye and he just had a deep, deep growl and showed all his teeth," Stephenson said.
While the lion paced back and forth, Stephenson grabbed a large tree branch in an attempt to scare the animal off. He also threw some small stones at it.
"I think it could've easily taken both of us if it wanted to," he said, "luckily he didn't."
The mountain lion eventually took off, leaving Stephenson and Stella shocked on the trail. It wasn't until they returned home did Stephenson notice his 10-year-old lab mix was hurt.
"On one side she has a deep puncture wound," he said. "She has really thick fur so I didn't notice it right away."
Luckily, Stella only needed a few stitches and will be okay. Her owner said the scary experience taught him an important lesson.
"The lesson is to have your dog on a leash," he said, admitting his mistake. "I'm 100 percent sure that if she would've been on a leash, we would have walked along the trail and nothing ever would've happened. We're happy to be alive."
Stephenson reported the encounter to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife shared the following tips for recreating and living in mountain lion country. They also have more information at a special section of cpw.state.co.us.
- When hiking, make noise and talk to hiking partners. Making noise reduces the possibility of surprising a lion and increases the chances that they'll move away.
- Keep children in front of you and within sight.
- Carry a walking stick or hiking pole to use in case of a confrontation. Pepper spray is also recommended.
- Keep dogs on a leash. Confrontations between dogs and mountain lions are common. Most dogs will run away from lions; but that might mean that as they return to their owner a lion could be in pursuit.
- If you see a mountain lion do not try to get closer for a better look.
- If you come face-to-face with a lion, stop and stay calm. DO NOT RUN! Raise your arms above your head to appear larger and threatening. Pull a jacket or a pack above your head. Back up slowly and talk in a loud voice to the lion.
- If you are attacked, fight back aggressively to scare the animal away. Stay on your feet.
- Explain these tips to your children and practice with them.
- Keep yards clean, trim shrubs and other cover, don't leave pet food outside, and don't put meat in compost piles.
- Do not feed deer.
- Protect your pets by bringing them in at night or keeping them in a fully enclosed kennel.
- In general, lions are reclusive and avoid human contact. The chance of seeing mountain lions in Colorado are rare, so the chance of being attacked are even lower. However, people need to remember that these amazing creatures live amongst us.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.
for more features.