Wildlife officials euthanized a young mountain lion Wednesday after it swatted an 11-year-old girl inside her family’s chicken coop in Buena Vista, leaving a puncture wound on her face.
The girl was attacked after she opened the wooden hen house, where the mountain lion was inside, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said in a news release Thursday evening.
When wildlife officers were called to the rural area southeast of Buena Vista, they found a young female mountain lion, weighing about 30 pounds, in the wire mesh coop. Officers quickly euthanized the lion, which appeared to be healthy, and sent the body to an animal health lab in Fort Collins to be examined, CPW said.
The girl was treated for a small puncture wound to her cheek and released from a hospital.
The mountain lion was likely lured to the chicken coop as it searched for an easy meal, said Sean Shepherd, area wildlife manager. Inside the coop, the girl also found a dead chicken.
“The victim likely surprised the lion. It probably felt threatened and it swatted at her as she entered,” Shepherd said.
Wildlife officials don’t believe the mountain lion was stalking the girl, as it didn’t chase her after the initial swat. Still, CPW “responded aggressively to protect human health and safety,” according to the release.
“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.”
The attack comes shortly after another mountain lion attack in Nathrop when a man was clawed by a large cat while in his backyard hot tub near Mountain Princeton Hot Springs Resort in March. He was left with four superficial scratches on his head and ear.
“Both of these incidents are highly unusual,” Shepherd said. “I do not believe there is a pattern here. These were unfortunate coincidences. Nothing more.”
Wednesday’s attack in Buena Vista marked the 25th time a mountain lion has injured a human in Colorado since 1990, CPW said, and three people have been killed by mountain lions since 1990. Before these two incidents in Chaffee County, there had not been a reported mountain lion attack on a human since February 2022.