Mountain Lions in Colorado: What You Should Know

mountain lion
© Chris Desborough/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Published: April 15, 2022

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Colorado is a state with more than a few interesting creatures within its borders, but few of them are as powerful or terrifying as the mountain lion. Mountain lions are large cats also known as cougars, pumas, and many other names. These animals prefer to sneak up and ambush their prey before delivering a fatal bite. Although human interactions are rare, attacks may be trending upwards as humans continue to spread. Today, we will look at the mountain lions in Colorado, including the dangers they pose and what you need to know to stay safe.

How Dangerous Are Mountain Lions?

What do mountain lions eat - mountain lion feeding

Mountain lions are highly capable predators that can bring down large deer and more.

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Mountain Lions
SizeWeight: 60lbs-190lbs on average, up to 220lb
Length: 5ft-8ft
Height: 2ft-3ft at the shoulder
Speed– 30-40 mph
Defenses– High speed
– Large size
– Good senses
– Ability to hide well
Offensive Capabilities– Powerful biting force of 1311N, over 400 PSI
–  Moderately powerful jaws
–  2-inch-long canines
– 2.5-inch claws
Predatory Behavior– Ambush predator that wraps its forelegs around prey and takes them to the ground
– Very quiet hunters that stalk potential prey before attacking

Mountain lions are dangerous to humans and many other animals, including those larger than themselves. These animals are apex predators in the majority of their ranges, including Colorado.

As you can see from the data above, mountain lions have a deadly mixture of speed, stealth, and attack power that makes them dangerous. Although they don’t have a very powerful bite like other big cats, it’s strong enough to break necks, open veins, or puncture the skull with their 2-inch canine teeth.

Mountain lions are interesting because they integrate their claws and forelegs into their attacks. They stalk their prey, spring into action, and tackle them while wrapping them up with their legs. Only then do they deliver the death blow. This method of attack lessens the chance that the prey can get away or fight back.

Also, it may seem impossible to miss these animals in the forest due to their size and color. Yet, they’re expert stalkers. People have been surprised to find these massive felines only several feet behind them before finally noticing them. Their fur helps them blend into the rocky forests and arid, sandy areas they roam.

In short, mountain lions are dangerous and have killed humans before.

Are Mountain Lions in Colorado?

The mountainous areas of Colorado are perfect for mountain lions.

©iStock.com/zhuzhu

Mountain lions do live in Colorado. In fact, Colorado is believed to have the highest population of mountain lions in any single state in the U.S. Somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 mountain lions roam Colorado right now.

Colorado’s terrain is perfect for mountain lions, offering them plenty of mountainous alcoves in which to hide. Such areas allow these mountain lions to sneak up on and attack prey while also hiding from other dangerous creatures.

The downside for humans is that many of the rocky, mountainous areas in which the cougars live are popular with tourists. People come from all over the country to hike and ski in the mountains. While it’s not likely that a mountain lion will attack a human on the slopes during winter, hiking is another story.

A few particularly famous stories of mountain lion attacks in Colorado have come to light in recent years. For example, a juvenile mountain lion attacked a hiker in 2019. After he sustained injuries, he managed to choke the animal to death.

Again, mountain lion attacks are rare, but it’s important to be prepared if you’re hiking in this part of the world.

How to Avoid Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion In Snow (Felis Concolor)

Avoiding mountain lions is a matter of being knowledgeable about the area in which you’re hiking.

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Before you go hiking in Colorado, it’s important to learn how you can avoid any interactions with a mountain lion. You must lay the groundwork for your safety in this case, and we’ll show you just how to make that happen.

  1. Ask rangers or locals about mountain lion sightings before you start hiking, if possible.
  2. If you see a mountain lion and it does not notice you, immediately leave the area.
  3. Look and listen for signs of mountain lions. Mountain lions have screams rather than a roar that they use for mating and possibly as part of their hunting behavior. Also, look for claw marks on trees or animal carcasses.
  4. Be loud when you walk. Wear bells, talk loudly, and step heavily. Most of the time, mountain lions don’t want to attack humans, and they will leave the area.
  5. Never hike alone. A single target is far more appealing to a mountain lion than a group.
  6. Stay with your group and do not wander off.
  7. Never approach a baby mountain lion.
  8. Only hike during the day.
  9. If you continuously see a mountain lion in your periphery, get ready for an attack.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it may just save your life.

What to Do If You Encounter Mountain Lions in Colorado

puma vs mountain lion

Encountering a mountain lion will be scary, but you can survive the situation.

©Kwadrat/Shutterstock.com

If you encounter mountain lions in Colorado, here are some tips that can save your life.

If you see the mountain lion and neither of you has moved,

  • Stay calm and make no sudden movements while you slowly back away.
  • Keep your eyes on the lion, and do not let it out of your sight.
  • Do not approach the mountain lion, and give it ample room to escape.
  • Never bend down near a lion because it may mistake you for prey.
  • Do not try to run from a mountain lion. They are much faster than you. Running will make them believe they’re attacking prey.

If the mountain lion keeps getting closer:

  • Raise your arms and use any clothing you have to appear larger
  • Make a noise like clapping while loudly talking to the mountain lion
  • If the lion has still not backed off, begin throwing anything you can reach without bending over in its direction to intimidate the animal

If the mountain lion is poised to attack:

  • Use any weapons you have to fight back against the animal, including sticks, knives, and mace
  • Aim powerful blows at the animal’s head

Many people have fought off mountain lions. Once they figure out that you’re not worth a potential injury, they may leave you alone. However, you should fight back with all your might and resolve to kill the animal.

Mountain lions in Colorado do not actively hunt humans. Sometimes, they lack prey and come across lone hikers and decide to attack. Make no mistake, though, these animals are dangerous, and they can kill humans. Still, if you learn how to avoid these animals and prepare for potential attacks, you can hike with a greater level of comfort.


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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