mountain lion

An inquisitive cougar in Glacier National Park. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Evening is the time of day when people tend to wind down, the same time that mountain lions are on the hunt.

On Saturday evening, human and cougar collided in (of all places) a hot tub, when a man enjoying a leisurely soak with his wife in a subdivision near Salida felt something grab the back of his head.

The man and his wife began screaming and splashing water at whatever-it-was.

“The victim’s wife grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the animal, which they then identified as a mountain lion,” according to a release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The light and the commotion caused the lion to retreat about 20 feet from the couple in the hot tub. They continued to scream at the lion and after a short time it moved up to the top of a hill near some rocks where it crouched down and watched the couple.”

That gave them time to retreat inside the rental house, clean the scratches, and alert the homeowner, who called CPW.

“The couple did the right thing by making noise and shining a light on the lion,” said area wildlife manager Sean Shepherd, who is based in Salida. “Although this victim had only minor injuries, we take this attack seriously. We have alerted neighbors and posted signs warning of lion activity. And we will continue to track the lion and lion activity.”

The circumstances of the attack Saturday seem unusual, even wacky (the Denver Post and the Colorado Sun both pounced on this story). But in fact, the mountain lion was simply investigating a potential meal. The area where the attack took place was in a heavily wooded area along Chalk Creek.

“It’s certainly lion habitat,” CPW Public Information Officer Bill Vogrin said.

The hot tub was not on a platform (as many are). Instead, it was in-ground. “They were at ground level — their heads were at ground level,” Vogrin said of the couple. “There were no fences, no lighting.”

Attacks by a mountain lion in Colorado “are very rare,” Vogrin added, and this animal didn’t see people moving, or walking, and try to stalk them.

“It saw movement in the dark.”

And it went to investigate.

Lions are all around us in the San Juans, CPW Wildlife Officer Kelly Crane said — and they are not moving about only in daytime. This reporter’s husband saw an adult mountain lion loping across Highway 62, just outside Ridgway on the road from Telluride, a couple of weeks ago in the late afternoon. Last week, a juvenile mountain lion was killed by a car “right outside of Ridgway, just north of Ridgway, during daylight hours,” Crane added. She retrieved the body.

“I’ve picked up lions all year round: all ages and sexes,” she said. “The majority, if not all, of Ouray County is mountain lion habitat, and probably San Miguel County, too, except for the very tops of 14,000-foot peaks. The escarpment off of Log Hill is probably the most prime habitat in all of Ouray County: they like those rocky cliffs, they like the canyon country. But they can be found pretty much anywhere.”

To minimize your chances of encountering a lion, CPW advises “making lots of noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active, dusk to dawn,” installing outside lighting (“light areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one were present”) and closely supervising children when they play outdoors. Bring pets in at night “or keep them in a kennel with a secure top.” Place livestock “in enclosed barns or sheds at night. Close doors to all outbuildings, since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.”

“Cats are curious, just like bears,” Crane said. The difference is this large predator doesn’t hibernate.

For more about living with mountain lions in Colorado, visit