An evening soak turned into a confrontation with an apex predator in Chaffee County, Colorado, on Saturday when a mountain lion clawed a man relaxing in a hot tub, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports.
The man was sitting in an in-ground hot tub at a rental home with his wife at around 8 p.m. on March 18 when a mountain lion swatted the man’s head. The couple immediately started screaming and splashing water at the big cat. The woman also shined a flashlight at it. At first, the cat retreated just 20 feet from the tub and then eventually went further back to the woods, continuing to watch the couple. The couple escaped into the house and called the rental property owner. Coincidentally, the property owner is a CPW employee who immediately contacted agency officers. Four officials responded to the scene.
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By the time the officers arrived, the man had cleaned his own wounds and declined any medical attention. The paw left behind four scratches spreading from the top of the man’s head to near his right ear. The officers confirmed the scratches lined up with a standard mountain lion paw.
“We think it’s likely the mountain lion saw the man’s head move in the darkness at ground-level but didn’t recognize the people in the hot tub,” said Sean Shepherd, a CPW wildlife manager. “The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion. Although this victim had only minor injuries, we take this incident seriously. We have alerted neighbors and posted signs warning of lion activity. And we will continue to track the lion and lion activity.”
The rental home is located about five miles west of Nathrop in a thickly forested subdivision. Nathrop is a rural unincorporated town about 70 miles west of Colorado Springs. This area sits on the eastern border of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests in central Colorado. The GMUG complex is almost 3 million acres.
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Two officers tried tracking it, but cold temperatures and hard snow on the ground made for tough tracking conditions. CPW chose not to track with hounds due to the rental home’s proximity to others in the subdivision and nearby Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. But they did set a trap in an attempt to catch the big cat.
Two days prior to the hot tub swat, a mountain lion attacked a 64-year-old man on the Salt River in Arizona, Gila County Animal Care and Control reported in a press release. The man was camping on the riverbank with a rafting group at the time. Ten rafters beat back the cougar with paddles and the group eventually retreated to safety in their raft. The cougar is still at large and multiple authorities including the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Gila County Animal Care and Control, San Carlos Game and Fish, and Arizona Game and Fish are searching for it.