A 5-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion at around 8 p.m. Friday.
The attack happened in the family's yard at their home near Lower River Road in the community of Lower Woody Creek about 10 miles northwest of Aspen.
The boy suffered injuries to his head, neck and face, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.
A news release said the boy and his older brother were outside their home playing in the yard. The boys' mother was inside the home and heard her son start screaming.
The mother ran outside and saw the mountain lion on top of her child. She then fought off the lion and pulled her son out of its grip.
“If that animal engages, not just a lion, but a bear, you want to fight," said Matt Robbins with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "You want to put up a resistance and you want that animal to know that you’re not an easy prey. From what I understand from reports, she did absolutely the right thing.”
Deputies said the mother sustained minor injuries to her hand and legs.
The boy's father drove the child to Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment.
Pitkin Sheriff's deputies and a U.S. Forest Service officer went to the home and spotted the mountain lion nearby. A short time later, the Forest Service officer found the 2-year-old mountain lion, shot it and killed it.
Parks and Wildlife officials are still investigating the incident, and a necropsy will be performed on the lions suspected in the attack to see if they were involved.
Officers also looking for a second mountain lion that had been spotted in the area by witnesses earlier Friday. They found the mountain lion about 600 yards away from the attack site around 2 a.m. and euthanized it.
“We’ll be doing a DNA tech. We’ll be checking not only the saliva of the animal, but also checking within the claws and the mouth and the fur of the animal to see if any those correlate with what was found on the victim,” said Robbins.
The boy was brought to Children's Hospital via helicopter in fair condition, according to Aspen Valley Hospital.
The last known lion attack on a human in Colorado occurred in July 2015 when a young lion attacked a man as he fished along the Coffee Pot Road north of Dotsero. The man was scratched and bitten on his back and was treated and released from a local clinic. The lion in that incident, a small yearling male, was tracked down and killed.
There have been three fatal mountain lion attacks and 18 people injured since 1990.
CPW officials have cautioned the public that lion sightings are increasing across Colorado, likely due to a growing human population encroaching on lion habitat in conjunction with a robust lion population in the state.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers extensive information on its website. If you live in lion country, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don't feed any wildlife. It attracts lion prey like foxes, raccoons and deer. Predators follow prey
- Avoid planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer prefer to eat. It might encourage wildlife to come onto your property
- Make noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active—dusk to dawn
- Install outside lighting in 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, especially around children's play areas. Make it difficult for lions to approach unseen
- 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
- When you walk or hike in mountain lion country, go in groups and make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. A sturdy walking stick can ward off a lion. Make sure children are close to you and within your sight at all times. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one
- Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape
- Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly yet firmly to it. Move slowly
- Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it safely. Do not turn and run! Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright
- Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won't panic and run
- If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. Convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion
- Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions can be driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands successfully. Remain standing or try to get back up
- Encourage your neighbors to follow these simple precautions. Prevention is far better than a possible lion confrontation