The man, who was not named, was bitten on his face and wrist but fought free from the lion, suffocating the animal with his hands in self-defense, officials said.
Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told NBC affiliate KUSA that the man did not have a weapon, so he used the only things he had.
“He was really creative,” Petersburg told the station about the man. “He used his hands, feet — things that were around him, and really it was just a fight for survival.”
Officials said that the man stated he heard a noise behind him while he was running Monday afternoon and, when he turned around to see what it was, the lion “lunged” at him, causing serious injuries.
Petersburg, with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said in a statement “the lion’s hunting instincts were triggered by the runner.” But he told KUSA that the man did what he was supposed to do — he raised his arms so that he would appear larger and he made noise.
The animal still attacked.
“At that point, it was kind of a fight for survival between him and lion,” Petersburg told the station. “The lion was upon his upper body and the man was able to fight the animal off and kill it at the end of it in self-defense, and then get himself off the trail into a car, and he took himself to the hospital.”
Following the incident, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) released some tips for surviving mountain lion attacks — as well as some important advice for the big cats.
“Don’t mess with Colorado trail runners,” Polis said in a statement Tuesday. “A runner near Fort Collins killed an attacking mountain lion with his bare hands. Don’t try this yourself on purpose, as it is likely to end poorly for you. If it does come to a fight, Target the eyes and nose. This gentleman managed to suffocate the attacking cat.”
Mountain lions are described as “calm, quiet and elusive” and though attacks are not common in Colorado, their interactions with humans have increased in recent years because more people are moving into their habitat and using trails in those areas, among other things, according to information from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
In response to reports about aggressive mountain lions, state wildlife authorities trapped and killed three of them last month in Glenwood Springs, about 175 miles southwest of Horsetooth Mountain, according to the Citizen Telegram.
Over the past century, fewer than a dozen people have died in attacks in North America and, over the past several decades, only three people have died in Colorado, according to the agency.
“Most of the attacks were by young lions, perhaps forced out to hunt on their own and not yet living in established areas. Young lions may key in on easy prey, like pets and small children,” the agency said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges people to travel in groups when visiting lion country and to never approach a mountain lion in the wild.
If a camper, hiker or runner is confronted by a mountain lion, he or she is advised to “stay calm,” “stop or back away slowly” and “do all you can to appear larger,” such as raising your arms or opening your coat. Never run, crouch down or turn your back on the animal.
“Fight back if a lion attacks you,” the agency noted on its website. “Lions have been 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!”
After Monday’s attack, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the agency, along with Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources, is investigating the incident.