Mother of boy attacked by lion ‘a hero’

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
The carcass of the mountain lion that was shot after attacking a child in the front yard of his home below Woody Creek on Friday night. Note the sheriff's deputy's boot at the bottom of the picture, which provides an idea of the lion's smaller size.

The mother of a 5-year-old boy attacked by a mountain lion Friday night reached into the animal’s mouth and wrested her son’s head from its jaws, a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy said Saturday.

“She was able to pry the cat’s jaws open,” Deputy Michael Buglione said. “She’s a hero.”

The boy was helicoptered from Aspen Valley Hospital to Children’s Hospital in Denver on Friday night in fair condition with injuries to his face, head and neck, according to Buglione and a statement from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. A spokeswoman at Children’s Hospital said Saturday she was not authorized to release any details of his condition.

Meanwhile, federal and state wildlife officials tracked down and killed a second mountain lion early Saturday morning that was seen in the vicinity of the attack in the front yard of a home on Lower River Road below Woody Creek.

Trackers with hound dogs found the second lion Saturday about 2 a.m., approximately 600 yards from the scene of the attack on the boy, according to a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The first report of the attack came from the boy’s father, who called 911 about 8 p.m. Friday while en route to Aspen Valley Hospital with the child, according to the statement. That call was “quickly disconnected,” the statement says.

Buglione said the car with the child inside passed another deputy on his way to the hospital at a very high rate of speed. By the time deputies made it to the hospital, the father, the boy and the mother were already there, he said.

Buglione and the other deputy entered the hospital’s trauma room and saw the child at that time. He said the boy had a “very deep laceration” on his right cheek, his right eye was swollen shut and part of his scalp at the top of his head was pulled back.

The boy’s injuries did not look life-threatening, he said.

“He was awake and conscious and talking with his mother,” Buglione said.

At that time, he spoke with the father, who told them he’d just returned from a run after the attack occurred.

Buglione later spoke with the mother, who told him she was inside the house and the two boys had been playing outside when she heard the older boy screaming, he said. The older boy said his younger brother had been attacked by a fox, Buglione said.

The mother ran outside and saw the mountain lion hunched over her son, he said.

“The boy was completely under the cat,” Buglione said.

The mother ran to her son, pulled one of the lion’s paws off the boy and saw that the animal had the child’s head completely in its mouth, he said. The mother then reached into the lion’s mouth, pried its jaws off the boy’s head, scooped him up and ran away, Buglione said.

The cat did not chase the mother as she ran away with the child, he said.

“It wasn’t a big cat,” Buglione said. “Had it been a 110-pound lion — which I’ve seen around here — this would have been a much different story.”

The mother received injuries to her hands and legs, according to the statement. She was treated and released from Aspen Valley Hospital in good condition, according to Ginny Dyche, hospital spokeswoman.

Between talking to the father and mother, Buglione said he and another deputy met a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer at the scene of the attack and spotted the cat under the tree where the father said it would be. It was lying amid a cluster of debris, including toys, bicycles and a wheelbarrow, he said.

The two deputies and the Forest Service officer were 10 to 12 feet from the lion and it didn’t move or make any noises, Buglione said.

“At the time, the assumption was it was sick or injured and needed to be put down,” he said.

So the Forest Service officer killed it with a shotgun, he said. The animal did not look like it had been injured, Buglione said. Deputies put the animal’s body in a bag for Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, who will test it for plague and rabies, he said.

A spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the fact that the cat didn’t move from the site of the atttack wasn’t necessarily odd behavior and that neither of the two dead lions showed signs of sickness or injury.

“There’s no way of knowing why the lions remained in the area,” Mike Porras said.

He said officials received a report of a mountain lion sighting just before the attack, while witnesses also reported seeing two mountain lions in the area around that time. That prompted the hunt for the second lion that ended about 2 a.m. Saturday, Porras said.

Both lions appeared to be 8 to 9 months old, he said. The bodies of both animals were taken to a Parks and Wildlife facility in Fort Collins, where necropsies were to be performed, Porras said. The results of those examinations were not available Saturday, he said.


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