My friend Michelle and I ran 7.5 miles yesterday. That gave her plenty of time to tell me about her recent encounter with a mountain lion while on a solo run. She is obviously still alive, so it was a happy ending.
Michelle was visiting Steamboat, Colorado with her family. One morning she decided to take a run up the ski mountain. Alone. She didn’t tell anyone where she was going (and I’m assuming didn’t have on a Road ID). As she crested the top of the mountain trail, she looked ahead of her to see a huge lion standing about 15 feet from her. He stared her down and started pursuing her slowly. Think of a cat pursuing a mouse and how they crouch down and steadily move forward. She had time to snap this picture. As if.
You can’t go to a trailhead in Colorado without being told what to do if you have an encounter with a lion:
- Do not run. Back away from it slowly, but only if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack.
- Face the lion and stand upright.
- Make eye contact.
- Do not bend or crouch over. Try to appear larger. A person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. Raise your arms. Open your jacket, if you're wearing one.
- Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can grab without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a large voice.
- Do not approach the lion.
- Fight back if attacked. Try to stay on your feet if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven off by prey that fights back. Some hikers have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands. Since lions usually try to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
Do not approach the lion??? This is kind of like the warning on the iron that says, “Do not iron clothes while wearing them.”
The above instructions are about the opposite of what you do when you encounter a bear, so I always get confused. I’m hoping if I run into a mountain lion and I curl into the fetal position, he will be so astounded, he’ll leave me alone, thinking: “She’s too dumb to attack. Stupid blonds don’t taste good.”
But, back to the story. Michelle turned around and ran her ass off, screaming, arms flailing. She knew you weren’t supposed to do this, but she also knew that if she got attacked in this isolated area, she’d be a goner. She wanted to get a bit closer to the condos further down on the side of the mountain. She turned around once to see the lion continuing to pursue her. He wasn’t in a full run, but was coming after her.
She made it down to the condos and found a guy taking out his trash. He took care of her and calmed her down. By now the lion was gone. Her husband called the wildlife people who were very interested because they hadn’t seen a lion on the mountain that year. They drove up to the spot of the encounter and found her tracks as well as the lion’s. The also found a dead deer. Turns out the lion had just killed a deer when she came upon the scene. Mr. Lion was protecting his food and trying to keep her away. Seems he was not chasing her, but warning her to get away.
One time when
I was at band camp Emma was 2 months old my mom and I went on a hike outside of Boulder. I had Emma in the front pack. We were about 1/2 mile form the car when we heard the distinct growl of a mountain lion beside the path. I have NEVER been so scared. I can’t believe I didn't soil myself. We picked up rocks and started walking quickly away. I now know not to go trail running in the early morning or at dusk. I also know to always go with someone and on a well travelled trail.
What’s the scariest or strangest thing that’s ever happened to you on a run?
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