A couple staying at a local rental home in Chalk Creek Canyon on the south side of the Chalk Creek had a brush with a mountain lion while lounging in the in-ground hot springs tub at about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night, March 18. The rental property is about one mile west of Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officials were notified and put out a release. Parks officials said the man and his wife had been soaking in an in-ground hot tub feed by a natural hot spring, when “he felt something grab his head. He and his wife began screaming and splashing water at the animal,” the release said. “The victim’s wife grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the animal, which they then identified as a mountain lion.”
The noise and the light caused the mountain lion to move about 20 feet away from the couple who were still in the hot tub. They continued to scream at the mountain lion and it moved up to the top of the ridge above them near some rocks where it crouched down and continued to watch the couple.
They were then able to get out of the hot springs tub and return to the rental house. Once inside, they cleaned the scratches and called the property owner (who also happens to be a CPW employee), who alerted CPW officers.
The first two CPW officers on the scene immediately searched for the lion, following the steep ridge along the creek. They found no tracks because the temperatures and frozen snow on the ground prevented tracks from showing.
CPW officers decided not to use dogs to track the mountain lion because of the proximity to Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort complex about a mile east. So they set a trap in hopes of catching the lion.
“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, Area Wildlife Manager based in Salida. “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.”
Within the past month, a post on the Next Door social media site reported that a mountain lion had been spotted along CR 306 west of Buena Vista (the road heading over Cottonwood Pass) about six miles north of Chalk Creek Canyon.
On March 10, Roger Moen, a neighbor just east of Mt. Princeton Hot Springs on Cottonwood Lane spotted mountain lion tracks in the snow on his property. So mindful of the broad range of predatory wildlife, Chalk Creek full-time neighbors have already been watchful.
Saturday night’s 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.
Three other attacks in Colorado since 1990 have resulted in human deaths. (CPW does not characterize lion depredation of pets or other animals as attacks.)
CPW is encouraging Chalk Creek residents to keep reporting mountain lion sightings or activity near their homes; they can do so by calling CPW’s Salida office at 719-530-5520 or calling Colorado State Patrol at 719-544-2424 after business hours.
Mountain lion attacks are relatively rare. But to avoid or manage potential encounters and learn more about living in areas with mountain lions in Colorado, go to https://cpw.state.co.us/lions.
To reduce the risk of problems with mountain lions on or near your property, CPW urges you to follow these simple precautions:
- During the times mountain lions are most active (dusk to dawn) be noisy as you can be coming and going and observe your surroundings.
- Install outside lighting. Light areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one were present.
- Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors. Keep children close to you or hold their hands when walking and don’t let them get ahead of you. Mountain lions can appear and disappear just as quickly, even with children who weigh close to 40 pounds. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn in unfenced areas. 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. Make it difficult for lions to approach unseen.
- Avoid planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer often prefer to eat. It encourages wildlife to come onto your property. Predators follow prey. Never feed any wildlife.
- Keep your pet under control (this holds true for residents and is especially important for visitors who aren’t aware that dogs are to be leashed and aren’t welcome on residents’ property.) 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.
Editor’s Note: The couple had been out in the in-ground tub fed by natural hot springs in the late afternoon, and waved and spoke with this journalist and her two five-year-old twin granddaughters who were walking on a path along the north side of Chalk Creek.
The victim is the lion. They should eliminate the short term rentals not the lion.