Man who fought mountain lion with pocketknife, rocks wishes he brought gun

Attack might have been avoided if he could have fired a warning shot, he says

Richard Marriott of Evergreen stands beside a mountain lion that attacked him on Aug. 10 near Kremmling. Marriott fought off the cat with a pocketknife and some rocks. Because the mountain lion attacked a human, wildlife officers shot and killed the animal the next morning.
Courtesy of Richard Marriott

A man who fought off a mountain lion attack with a pocketknife and some rocks near Kremmling is thankful his brush with the predator didn’t turn out much worse.

Richard Marriott lives in Evergreen but has a place in the Big Horn Park subdivision near Kremmling, which he likes to use as a base for hunting. Marriott is just now starting to get his voice back after yelling so much at the mountain lion last weekend.

Over the phone, he told the Sky-Hi News the injuries he suffered when the lion attacked him were “super, super minor,” and the cat, a young adult male, barely grazed one of his legs with one claw.

“I can’t believe it actually happened,” he said. “I’m lucky it didn’t get a lot worse.”

Recalling the encounter, Marriott said he went out into the woods around 5 o’clock on Aug. 10 to scout elk ahead of the upcoming bow hunting season. He went a few miles out and sat on a rock until the sun went down. Once it started getting dark, Marriott packed up his belongings and started back down the trail.

“It was kind of weird because I had an eerie feeling that night,” he said. “It’s just funny how your instinct comes into play; I don’t even really know what you call it.”

Marriott said he usually takes a pistol when he goes out into the woods. However, thinking he would only be gone a few hours and wouldn’t need it, he didn’t have it with him this time.

“All I had on me was a little pocketknife,” he said, adding that the knife’s blade is small and the tip has “virtually no point.”

Under a bright moon, Marriott was walking on the trail to his vehicle without his headlamp on. He estimated he was only about a quarter mile from his vehicle when he heard something rustling up in the woods behind him.           

“At first, I thought it was just deer I had kicked up,” he said.

However, Marriott could soon tell whatever was making the noises was following him, and it was no deer. As he turned around completely, he saw the mountain lion swerving back and forth through the trees.

“At that point, I’m going, ‘Oh crap, is this really happening,’” he said.

Marriott estimated the whole encounter lasted about 10 minutes. The cat continued to follow him as he backed down the trail for about 150 to 200 yards, the entire time keeping his eyes fixed on the mountain lion that seemed to be stalking him.

Because Marriott didn’t want to take his eyes off the cat, he didn’t see the log when he tripped over it.

Falling onto his backside, Marriott wondered if he was done for. On his feet, he felt like he had a fighting chance. On the ground, he thought the mountain lion would surely pounce, he said.

“But luckily, it came up and just kind of swiped my leg,” he continued. “In all honesty, I think it was curious.”

With the pocketknife in hand, Marriott slashed back at the cat. The blade was small, but Marriott is sure he hit the mountain lion in the face with it.

“I didn’t really hit it that great, but I got it enough the cat knew I wasn’t going to lay there and have him devour me,” Marriott said.

With the exchange creating a little more room between him and the mountain lion, Marriott grabbed for some nearby rocks and began throwing them at the lion as he jumped back on his feet.

The mountain lion continued walking Marriott down the trail for about a hundred more yards, Marriott said, until he came upon a patch of large rocks and starting throwing those at the cat. Marriott said he connected with one of the large rocks and hit the lion in the head to scare it off.

Hearing Marriott screaming at the mountain lion, people in the subdivision called 911, and authorities met Marriott at the bottom of the mountain.

Marriott said he told wildlife officers he thought the mountain lion seemed more curious than anything, but because the animal attacked a human, officers said it had to be put town.

The agency puts a premium on human safety, said Mike Porras, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and when wildlife acts aggressively toward humans, the agency unfortunately has to kill those animals.

The next morning, Marriott went out with wildlife officers, who tracked the mountain lion down with hounds and killed it within an hour.

Marriott said he’s glad nobody else will get hurt by the mountain lion, but he wishes he had bought his pistol with him because the encounter probably would have turned out very differently.

“I think I would have been able to give it a warning shot and hopefully it would have ran off,” he said. “That’s what I kind of take from all of this. When I go into the field now, I need to make sure I have my sidearm.”

A necropsy revealed the mountain lion had only grass in his stomach, indicating the animal was hungry, Porras said.

Beyond attacking Marriott, Porras added that the mountain lion was atypically aggressive with the hounds that tracked it and even fought the dogs instead of running away like most mountain lions would do.

With such a robust mountain lion population in Colorado and so many people venturing into the backcountry, Porras encouraged people to get educated about how to handle such encounters with wildlife.

He said someone should never run away from a mountain lion, and it’s much better to stay facing the animal and slowly back away from it like Marriott did.

When the cat pounced on Marriott, he fought back with whatever he had, in this case a pocketknife, and that was exactly what he should have done too, Porras continued.

Porras said that there was a mountain lion sighting in the same subdivision about a week before the Aug. 10 attack that was likely the same cat.

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