HomeOutdoorsNewsHow Many Mountain Lion Attacks Occur in Colorado?

How Many Mountain Lion Attacks Occur in Colorado?

by Jon D. B.
Colorado mountain lion attacks
Colorado mountain lion photographed in 1976 after being freed by Chuck Anderson, who is conducting Cougar Census. (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images)

With the first mountain lion attack of 2023 occurring in Colorado, let’s take a look at how common altercations with these big cats actually are.

Across America, mountain lion attacks remain rare, but occur nonetheless. A man was just attacked by an Arizona mountain lion last week. And on Saturday, March 18, a Colorado man was set upon by a lion while in a hot tub.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reported the attack directly through their Monday news release. Whenever researching wildlife attacks, injuries, or fatalities of humans, wildlife agencies such as CPW are the sources to use, as there is no sensationalizing of the subject matter. All too often, the truths of wild predators are blinded by blood-thirsty headlines and fabricated alarmism.

In turn, CPW has released a concise breakdown of mountain lion attacks in Colorado for the public:

  • The March 18, 2023 incident is the first reported mountain lion attack on a human in Colorado since Feb. 27, 2022
  • This is the 24th known attack of a mountain lion causing injury to a human in Colorado since 1990
  • Since 1990, three attacks in Colorado have resulted in human deaths

To be clear, CPW does not characterize lion depredation of pets or other animals as “attacks.” The numbers above reflect lion-human altercations only.

North America’s mountain lions are elusive, solitary big cats that are historically shy of humans. Attacks on people typically involve extenuating circumstances as a result. Mothers are deeply protective and territorial over their cubs, for instance. The species is also a known carrier of rabies, which may have been a factor in the recent Arizona attack.

Mountain Lion and Mule Deer
Photo by Tom Brakefield/Getty Images

As for Colorado’s first mountain lion attack of 2023, “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,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Sean Shepherd offers.

Mountain Lion/Human Interactions Increasing in Colorado, CPW Says

When dealing with the attack, “The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion,” Shepherd adds. And although the victim had only minor injuries, CPW takes this incident seriously, as should any who live in cougar country.

The key lies in balancing our appreciation of elusive predators and the knowledge of how rare attacks are with recognition that these are wild, deadly hunters capable of sourcing humans as prey. In other words, a house fire is still a rare occurrence, but we prepare form them nonetheless.

In Colorado, mountain lion awareness is becoming more and more important, too. “Recently, the number of mountain lion/human interactions has increased,” CPW cites on their lion page, adding that this is likely due to a variety of reasons:

  • ​More people moving into lion habitat
  • Increase in deer populations and density
  • Presumed increase in lion numbers and expanded range
  • More people using hiking and running trails in lion habitat
  • A greater awareness of the presence of lions

To reduce the risk of lion encounters on or near your property, CPW urges Coloradoans to follow the simple mountain lion precautions listed in our previous coverage.