TELLURIDE – San Miguel Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a 911 call Monday afternoon for a distressed female hiker being “stalked” by a mountain lion on a trail above the Down Valley Park in Placerville.
Forty-year-old Kyra Kopenstonsky of Placerville was hiking alone on the so-called Coltrains Trail when she spotted the lion in close proximity. She told deputies that when the lion kept following her, she called a friend for help, who then called 911 at approximately 4:45 p.m. Sheriff Bill Masters and six deputies responded and staged at the Down Valley Park, and attempted to reestablish contact with the reporting party and make contact with the hiker. Two of the deputies staged at the trailhead where the hiker ultimately emerged, shaken but uninjured.
Kopenstonsky told deputies the stalking activity lasted about 20 minutes before the mountain lion stopped following her. She said she initially grabbed a large branch to “attempt to look big,” and when the lion did not attack, she began singing to try to scare it away. When the cat laid down and began grooming, the hiker tried to take a few steps backwards, but it then jumped forward and got into a crouching position. Kopenstonsky said this cycle repeated itself, and at other times, the lion appeared to wander off.
However, when the hiker started to step backwards again, the lion came at her from the side.
Eventually the lion retreated, and several minutes later, Kopenstonsky made it to the trailhead.
Masters says that in his 34 years as sheriff there have been dozens of mountain lion “sightings,” but this is only the second “stalking” incident reported.
“We’re glad this turned out to be nothing more than a frightening experience for the hiker,” Masters said. “She was obviously educated as to what to do in this unexpected situation.”
The woman described the mountain lion as 2.5-to-3 feet long, with a long tail, and no identifiable spots, tag or collar. She said the lion did not appear to be injured or acting strangely, such as walking in circles.
Telluride Emergency Medical Services and Telluride Fire Department personnel readied for response, but stood down once it was established the hiker was safe and uninjured. The SMSO filed a report and notified Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials.
SMSO and the Colorado Department of Wildlife recommend the following if headed into suspected mountain lion habitat:
• Travel in groups, keep children close by, and make plenty of noise to lower your chances of surprising a lion.
• If you spot a mountain lion, do not approach it, especially one that is feeding or with kittens.
• Allow the lion a way to escape. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation.
• Face the lion, try to stay calm and do not run, as that may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack.
• Stand upright, grab a large stick if possible, and raise your arms in an effort to appear larger, and back away slowly.
• Sing or speak in a firm voice to help demonstrate that you are human and not prey.
• If you have small children with you, pick them up.
• If the lion becomes aggressive, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. Do not turn your back to the lion or bend down.
• Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. In fact, there is a greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. If attacked, fight back.