Mountain lion ‘stalks’ woman in southwest Colorado

Mountain lion. Courtesy: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Mountain lion. Courtesy: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

PLACERVILLE, Colo. — A lone hiker had a frightening encounter with a mountain lion Monday in San Miguel County.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson says the feline predator “stalked” the woman in Placerville which is about 16 miles northwest of Telluride in southwestern Colorado.

The woman, 40-year-old Kyra Kopenstonsky of Placerville was on a trail when she spotted the mountain lion in close proximity to her. She told deputies the big cat kept following her and she called a friend for help. That friend called 911 at 4:45 p.m.

Two deputies met the hiker at the trailhead where she eventually emerged “shaken, but uninjured.”

Here’s the story from the sheriff’s office:

“Kopenstonsky told deputies the stalking activity lasted about 20 minutes before the mountain lion stopped following her. She said she initially grabbed a large branch to “attempt to look big,” and when the lion did not attack, she began singing to try to scare it away. When the cat laid down and began grooming, the hiker tried to take a few steps backwards, but the lion then jumped forward and got into a crouching position. Kopenstonsky said this cycle repeated itself, and at times, the lion appeared to wander off. However, when the hiker started to step backwards again, the lion came at her from the side. Eventually the lion retreated, and several minutes later, Kopenstonsky made it to the trailhead.”

Bill Masters says that in his 34 years as sheriff in San Miguel County, there have been dozens of mountain lion sightings, but this is only the second “stalking” he can remember.

“We’re glad this turned out to be nothing more than a frightening experience for the hiker. She was obviously educated as to what to do in this unexpected situation,” he said.

Deputies alerted the Colorado Department of Wildlife about the woman’s encounter with the mountain lion.

Here are some things you should know when going into mountain lion country:

  • Travel in groups, keep children close by, and make plenty of noise to lower your chances of surprising a lion.
  • If you spot a mountain lion, do not approach it, especially one that is feeding or with kittens.
  • Allow the lion a way to escape. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation.
  • Face the lion, try to stay calm, do NOT run, as that may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • Stand upright, grab a large stick if possible, and raise your arms in an effort to appear larger, and back away slowly.
  • Sing or speak in a firm voice to help demonstrate that you are human and not prey.
  • If you have small children with you, pick them up.
  • If the lion becomes aggressive, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. Do not turn your back to the lion or bend down.
  • Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. In fact, there is a greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. If attacked, fight back.