(BUENA VISTA, Colo.) — A mountain lion has been euthanized after an 11-year-old girl was injured following an encounter with the animal.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the mountain lion swatted the girl on Wednesday evening, May 10, when she went into her family’s chicken coop. CPW said when she opened the wooden hen house, the mountain lion was inside and swatted her in the face.

CPW wildlife officers responded to the house, located in a rural area southeast of Buena Vista, to find the small, sub-adult mountain lion still in the wire mesh coop. They quickly euthanized it and its remains were sent to a CPW animal health lab in Fort Collins for examination.

CPW said it was a young female that weighed about 30 pounds and appeared in good body condition.

The girl was treated for a small puncture to her cheek and released at a Chaffee County hospital.

“This was a small mountain lion probably just looking for an easy meal in the chicken coop,” said Sean Shepherd, Area Wildlife Manager based in Salida. “The victim likely surprised the lion. It probably felt threatened and it swatted at her as she entered.”

Shepherd believes this was a defensive swat by the mountain lion and not a stalking-type of attack, because the animal did not pursue the girl. Either way, CPW said it takes such incidents very seriously and officers responded aggressively to protect human health and safety.

“Mountain lion attacks are rare, but we can’t take any chances when any predator makes contact with a human,” Shepherd said. “And we need to know if there was anything else going on with this lion, such as rabies, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or some other infection that may have influenced its behavior. So it must be euthanized and tested.”

Shepherd called it an unfortunate coincidence that CPW responded to another mountain lion attack in March in nearby Nathrop. In that incident, a man soaking in an in-ground hot tub was clawed in the head by a mountain lion. 

“Both of these incidents are highly unusual,” Shepherd said. “I do not believe there is a pattern here. These were unfortunate coincidences. Nothing more.”

CPW encourages residents to report mountain lion sightings or activity near their homes by calling their local CPW office or by calling Colorado State Patrol after business hours.

Prior to these two mountain lion incidents in Chaffee County, there had not been a mountain lion attack on a human in Colorado since Feb. 27, 2022.

This is the 25th known attack of a mountain lion causing injury to a human in Colorado since 1990, said CPW. Three other attacks in Colorado since 1990 have resulted in human deaths. CPW said attacks on pets or other animals are not classified as attacks.

Though mountain lion attacks are relatively rare, CPW said it is important to know how to avoid or manage potential encounters. To learn more about living 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:

  • Make lots of noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active: dusk to dawn.
  • 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. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. 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.
  • Planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer often prefer to eat encourages wildlife to come onto your property. Predators follow prey. Never feed any wildlife.
  • Keep your pet under control. 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.