A Pitkin County, Colorado, boy is being hospitalized after a mountain lion mauled him on Friday. Meanwhile, his mother is being hailed as a hero — a woman who summons the courage to face down a dangerous wild animal to protect her loved ones.
According to reports by Colorado news sources 9News and 7News, the attack occurred at around 8 p.m. on Friday near the community of Lower Woody Creek, 10 miles northwest of Aspen. The 5-year-old victim was in the front yard playing with his brother. The boy’s father had gone for a run, and his mother was inside the home.
The woman suddenly heard the high-pitched screams of her young son. Terrified, she rushed outside and discovered something no mother should see: a mountain lion in the process of viciously mauling her young child. She could have run for help. She could have called the police. Instead, this mom’s first and only instinct was to do whatever she could to get her son away from the mountain lion.
That meant confronting a dangerous wild animal on her own.
As Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Buglione told the Associated Press, the woman ran over to the mountain lion and pulled one of its paws away. That’s when she saw that the cat actually had the boy’s head in its mouth. Undeterred, Buglione said the mom pried the mountain lion’s jaws open until her son was free. The animal bit and scratched her, but she bravely fought the beast off. The startled mom then grabbed her son and ran indoors.
The little boy had been viciously mauled and suffered lacerations to his head and neck area, which included deep cuts and bite marks. 9News wrote that the child’s father drove him to Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment. CNN reported that after initial treatment in Aspen, the boy was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Denver.
The child remains hospitalized, though doctors say he is in fair condition. His mother was also treated for bite and scratch marks on her hands and legs and was released soon after. The family has yet to be identified to the press, but the mother is being hailed nationally for her quick-thinking and bravery. Deputy Buglione called her a “hero.”
Local police informed CNN that in response to the attack, “deputies and an officer with the U.S. Forest Service” tracked down a mountain lion and “the animal was put down.” Investigators are reportedly still looking into the incident; residents said they spotted a second mountain lion in the area.
The lion that attacked the 5-year-old boy was thought to be approximately 2-years-old, which would make it relatively young. Although mountain lions are common in Colorado, sightings are said to be rare. CNN quoted Colorado Parks and Wildlife when sharing that actual attacks by these big cats are even rarer.
“Lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than a dozen fatalities in North America in more than 100 years.”
In other words, there’s really no need to assume this attack, however unfortunate, is the beginning of a terrifying pattern of mountain lion behavior. Historically, attacks by these big cats — also known as panthers, pumas, and cougars — remain rare. It’s likely the small size of the victim made him seem like ideal prey to the mountain lion in question.
The little boy survived both because of his mother’s intervention and the ability to get him to a hospital in time. And so other factors at work can significantly increase one’s chances of survival, even after being mauled by a big cat.
If you do happen to find yourself face to face with an aggressive mountain lion, Colorado Parks and Wildlife notes that people “have fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and their bare hands successfully.”