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Mountain Lion Attack: Colorado Wildlife Officials Say Runner Suffocated The Animal

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) - A man who was running on a trail in the foothills west of Fort Collins and was attacked by a juvenile mountain lion wound up killing it through suffocation. That's according to Colorado wildlife officials who released the necropsy report on the animal.

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The attack happened at Horsetooth Mountain Park on Monday afternoon. The man was on the West Ridge Trail when he was attacked from behind. The cat reportedly bit his face and wrist. He also suffered puncture wounds to his arms, legs and back. The runner survived after fighting off the cat, hiking to safety and then taking himself to a hospital.

Officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Tuesday morning in a tweet an examination of the animal confirms "the victim's account that he was able to suffocate the animal while defending himself from the attack."

"The runner did everything he could to save his life. In the event of a lion attack you need to do anything in your power to fight back just as this gentleman did," said Mark Leslie, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region manager.

Tuesday afternoon, Larimer County officials announced they are temporarily closing the park because of the attack. They say they want "to allow for a cooling off period before reopening."

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CBS4's Dillon Thomas spoke with Northern Coloradans who frequent the trail. Both Rudy Schmidt and Penny Bossert said they had never seen, or heard, mountain lions in the area.

"(I) haven't seen much wildlife except for some deer, here," Schmidt said. "We have seen some bears, and things like that."

However, both said they have heard stories from others who have seen the mountain lions in the area. Bossert's husband was just one of the many cyclists in the area that have seen the lions walking across the road.

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"(My husband) saw a pair of mountain lions crossing the road," Bossert said. "He thought that they were younger, probably cubs."

Others told CBS4 they had heard mountain lions in the area before. One hiker, who wished not to be identified, said she heard their unique chirps before and was cautious when she did hear it.

The cat that attacked the runner was tested for disease, and results were negative for rabies. Parks and Wildlife officials said they were unable to test the cat's weight because a cannibalistic mountain lion likely got ahold of the deceased cat before investigators.

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Parks and Wildlife's Rebecca Ferrell said the man who was attacked recently read an article on how to handle an attack from mountain lions. He was able to use that knowledge while responding to the incident.

Ferrell said attacks on humans are very rare. However, if someone ever encounters a mountain lion, she said it was best to make yourself big, loud and calm. She said running away is a bad idea because the cat's hunting instincts could kick in, starting a chase.

Those, like Bossert, who frequent the trail said they were impressed the man was able to kill the cat, even if it was less than one year old.

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"He obviously is a strong guy. I don't know if I would be able to do the same thing," Bossert said. "It gives me a little bit of hesitation as to whether or not I really want to go up (the trail)."

However, not everyone was intimidated by the recent attack. Schmidt said he knew there were dangers that came with exploring wildlands. He said the attack would heighten his alert, but would not keep him away from the trails.

"It makes it a little more exciting if there are some animals around. Makes it like it's a little more wild country," Schmidt said. "I carry some bear spray, just to be on the safe side. But, it makes the country more interesting."

Since 1990, there have been 16 injuries as a result of mountain lion attacks and three human fatalities in Colorado.

The runner's name hasn't been released.

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