A mountain lion has been euthanized after it lunged at an 11-year-old girl and cut her face in central Colorado.
The girl had been checking on her chickens at her home southwest of Buena Vista when she saw one lying dead on the ground. As she opened the chicken coop, the mountain lion, which had been lurking inside, swatted her face, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reported.
Officers do not believe the mountain lion meant to kill or prey on the girl, but attacks, while rare, are taken very seriously. Colorado is home to an estimated 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions. The animals can occasionally be lured into residential areas for an easy meal if there is livestock around.
The lion left a puncture wound on the girl’s face and she received treatment at the Chaffee County hospital. Officers from CPW arrived at the house shortly after the incident and euthanized the lion.
Sean Shepherd, CPW area wildlife manager based in Salida, said in a statement that the lion had likely been looking for an “easy meal” in the chicken coop.
“The victim likely surprised the lion. It probably felt threatened and it swatted at her as she entered.”
Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, but can happen if they come into close contact with people. This will only usually happen if the lion feels threatened.
An autopsy of the animal determined it had been a female in good condition. Mountain lions found in populated areas are often emaciated and in poor condition.
When they are hungry, they can seek out food sources they wouldn’t usually approach, such as people’s pets. Emaciated lions also tend to be more aggressive.
Shepherd said that while these incidents are rare, officials “can’t take any chances” with lions that have attacked humans.
“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,” he said.
The incident comes after a man was clawed in the head by a mountain lion in March near Nathrop, which is just 8 miles from Buena Vista.
However, officials have said the two incidents happening in close succession are just a coincidence.
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