Runner kills mountain lion that attacked him in Colorado

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A mountain lion (U.S. Forest Service file)

A man who was attacked by a mountain lion while running on a northern Colorado trail fought back and killed the animal by choking it, wildlife officials said Tuesday.

The man was running alone at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space near Fort Collins on Monday when he heard something behind him on the trail and was attacked as he turned back to investigate, according to an account from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The agency said the young lion - its hunting instincts apparently triggered by the movement - lunged at the runner, biting his face and wrist, but the man was able to break free and kill the lion.

The man was hospitalized with serious injuries and was expected to make a full recovery.

He has not been identified by authorities, who say their investigation into the attack is not finished yet and the man needs time to decompress and decide if he will speak publicly. He told investigators he choked the lion and an examination of the animal confirmed that, said Rebecca Ferrell, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The lion was less than a year old and tested negative for rabies.

Ferrell said the runner did exactly what experts recommend in a rare encounter with a mountain lion - fight back as hard as you can. They also advise trying to get back up on your feet if knocked over, look as big as possible and use anything handy as a weapon, such as a backpack or keys. But the man who was attacked did not have any gear to help him.

"He did this just out of sheer will and defense of himself," Ferrell said.

Mountain lion attacks are rare because they tend to avoid humans. There have been fewer than 20 people killed by the animals in North America in more than 100 years.

In Colorado, where their population is strong, 16 people have been injured by mountain lions and three have been killed since 1990.