Colorado man repels attacking mountain lion with chainsaw
by Wyoming Game & Fish
July 16, 2009
(Cody) - Wielding a chainsaw, a Windsor, Colorado, man fended off an attacking mountain lion on the Shoshone National Forest about 27 miles west of Cody on Sunday, July 12th, around 6:30 p.m.
Dustin Britton was looking in a brushy area behind his campsite for some firewood when he saw the head of a mountain lion in the cover about 25 feet away. Britton, an ex-Marine, immediately backpeddled, putting another 20 feet between himself and the lion. He yelled, warning the lion to stay away, and revved his chainsaw to make extra noise. The lion started his direction in a stalking gait.
The lion then charged and at ten feet leapt at him. Britton had the chainsaw in front of him and met the lion with the saw. Briton said he likened the impact to being hit by another very large Marine in hand to hand combat training. The lion hit the ground and ran for cover.
It was then that Britton noticed a 6- to 8-inch cut in the skin on the lion’s right shoulder. Britton retired to the security of his camper with his family for the night. When he had time to assess if he had been injured in the attack, he found a single puncture wound on his left forearm less than one eighth of an inch in diameter.
On Monday morning a U.S. Forest Service employee, Wayne Day, saw Britton outside his trailer and asked if he could assist him in any way. Britton told Day the bizarre story. Day went to the Wapiti Ranger Station to report the incident by phone. Forest Service Biologist Andrew Pils immediately called North Cody Game Warden Craig Sax who started for the scene.
Sax recruited Luke Ellsbury, who works on the grizzly bear management team for the Game and Fish Department, to come to the scene with one of his lion dogs. Ellsbury asked Bob Wells, wildlife specialist with Wildlife Services, U.S. Dept of Agriculture, to bring several more dogs. Mark Bruscino, Trophy Game Biologist for the Game and Fish Department, arrived to help with the investigation. One look at the saw blade confirmed the incredible story as there was lion hair on the chain bar. As the team investigated the area, Wells’s hound "Hammer" was attacked by the lion. As the dog a struggled for its life, Wells was able to shoot and kill the lion.
The lion was sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie for testing. The 4- to 5-year old, 100-pound male lion was in very poor physical condition. Initial laboratory analysis indicated the lion was starving to death. The lion tested negative for rabies, plague and tularemia, diseases that can affect humans. Other potential diseases that could explain this lion’s aberrant condition and behavior will take longer to analyze.
"The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is pleased that these multiple agencies came together on such short notice to quickly react to this serious situation," Warden Sax said, "Every person involved was instrumental in ensuring continued human safety in the area, and I commend all the other people involved for their quick and correct reaction to the attack."
Britton said: "The Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Wildlife Services personnel are tremendous professionals. They arrived soon after I made the report and handled the situation quickly. I was amazed at how well this was handled. My family and I cannot thank those involved enough."
The dog, Hammer, did receive a serious cut from one of the lion’s claws and was treated by a veterinarian. She is at home and is recovering well.
Mountain lion attacks are rare. Bruscino reports that eight incidents of a mountain lion acting aggressively or exhibiting stalking behavior towards humans without provocation have occurred throughout Wyoming during the past ten years. He adds that in some of the incidents the lion may have mistaken the human for natural prey.
Jay Lawson, Wyoming’s Chief Game Warden, said: "While mountain lion attacks on humans are very rare, we hope people understand that they need to be cautious in areas where these large predators live. Some basic knowledge about how to prevent these kinds of incidents, and how to behave if you encounter a lion can help prevent a tragedy."
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recommends the following actions for people who encounter mountain lions:
• If you see a mountain lion, do not approach it.
• Stay calm and do not run. Mountain lions, like all cats, instinctively chase animals that run. If you have small children, pick them up so they don't run, and back away slowly.
• Make yourself look bigger by opening your jacket or raising your arms. Throw rocks or sticks if you can without turning your back. You want to convince the lion you are not prey and may even be a danger to the animal.
• If the lion attacks, fight back with rocks, sticks and kick or punch.
• Report the incident immediately to the G&F or law enforcement authorities:
The G&F has a free publication with information on mountain lion biology and living in lion country. More information can be found on the Game and Fish web: http://gf.state.wy.us/mountainlion/index.asp