Wildlife officials in Colorado have euthanized a young mountain lion this week after the animal swatted and injured an 11-year-old girl in a “rare” attack.
The child encountered the animal in her family’s wooden hen house Wednesday night at their rural home southwest of Buena Vista, about 94 miles west of Colorado Springs.
As she entered to check on the chicken coop, she found a dead chicken, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said in a news release.
The “small, sub-adult mountain lion” was still inside the wire mesh coop. It swatted the girl, leaving her with a puncture wound on her face, according to officials.
Responding wildlife officers quickly euthanized the animal, officials said.
“(It was) probably just looking for an easy meal in the chicken coop,” said Sean Shepherd, an area wildlife manager based in Salida, Colorado.
The child likely surprised the 30-pound, young female lion, which “probably felt threatened” and swatted in response, Shepherd said.
Shepherd believed it was a defensive swat rather than a stalking type of attack because the animal did not pursue the girl, according to the release.
The child was treated at a Chaffee County hospital and released.
The animal’s remains were sent to a Colorado Parks and Wildlife animal health lab in Fort Collins for examination.
Officials are investigating whether the animal had rabies, highly pathogenic avian influenza or another infection that may have influenced its behavior.
“Mountain lion attacks are rare, but we can’t take any chances when any predator makes contact with a human,” Shepherd said.
In March, a mountain lion attacked a man relaxing in a hot tub at a rental property in Nathrop, also in Chaffee County.
“Both of these incidents are highly unusual,” Shepherd said. “I do not believe there is a pattern here.”
Prior to this year’s two attacks in Chaffee County, Colorado had not reported a mountain lion attack on a human since February 2022, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The mountain lion attack on the 11-year-old girl marked the 25th to result in injury to a person in Colorado since 1990, the release stated. Three people have been killed in three separate attacks in the state since 1990.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.