On July 17, 10-year-old Mark David Miedema was hiking minutes ahead of his parents in Rocky Mountain National Park when an 88-pound pregnant female mountain lion attacked. The lion had fled by the time the family found the unconscious boy. Miedema, who choked on his own vomit, was dead when park rangers arrived.
Three hours later, the lion returned and
attacked a ranger who was standing guard over Miedema's body until
the coroner arrived. The ranger shot and wounded the animal, which
was then tracked and killed.
This was the second
mountain lion to attack a Colorado national park visitor in three
days. On the afternoon of July 14, on Mesa Verde National Park's
northern edge, an attack near a parking lot left a 4-year-old
French boy with lacerations to his left ear, shoulder and
Park rangers were escorting the boy's
family off a trail near where a lion had been spotted. When the boy
saw the lion, a young male, just off the trail, he screamed and
ran, apparently provoking the lion's chase instinct. The animal
pounced and dragged him into the bushes. The boy's family scared
the lion off and rangers shot and killed it.
Department of Wildlife officials say Colorado's rapid urban growth
and the popularity of the state's national parks have made attacks
inevitable. As tourists pour into wilderness areas during the
summer, where wildlife are protected from hunting, animals shed
their instinctive fear of humans.
no reason for (lions) to be afraid of us," says Todd Malmsbury,
Division of Wildlife spokesman. "Clearly, there will be more
Still, lion attacks are rare. Lions
have killed fewer than a dozen people in the United States this
century, including two in the last seven years in Colorado, where
the lion population is estimated at around 3,000. The last fatal
attack in Colorado took the life of an Idaho Springs jogger in
State wildlife officials also say there are
more lions in Colorado now than at any other period since World War
II. This is largely because their traditional food sources - elk,
deer, and small mammals like raccoons - are more plentiful. In
1965, Colorado was also the first state to ban hunting lions for
bounty, though hunting them in season is still legal. Officials say
sightings and legal hunting kills have increased steadily. Last
year, hunters took 319 mountain lions, double the annual average 10
Officials advise people not to turn
and run from a lion. Instead, people should wave their arms and
stand tall while slowly backing away.
Malmsbury, "You are many more times likely to be struck by
lightning than attacked by a lion."
Murray and Peter Chilson