‘I just reacted’: Colorado man fights off mountain lion to save dog

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ESTES PARK, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado man wants other dog owners to be aware of the dangers of living among mountain lions after saving his dog from a brutal attack last week.

“Wildlife is something that’s been in our backyard forever. Knowing that, every morning I open the door and take a pretty high-powered flashlight and kind of scan the hill up above us to see if I can catch the reflection of some eyeballs staring back at us,” said Gene Whannel.

Whannel says their property sits along public land. They’ve spotted mountain lions on trail cameras in the area but didn’t see anything concerning on this particular morning. He was outside with his 9-year-old Boxer, Sadie, early in the morning when he heard her whimper.

“I got the light on her, saw that she was in a wrestling match with something. From a distance I couldn’t tell what it was, but my suspicion was a mountain lion,” said Whannel.

Whannel says he searched for a rock or stick to use as a weapon but only found a small wooden property marker.

“I picked that up, hit the mountain lion once and it kind of made eye contact with me. I took another whack at it and hit it in the face. Then the mountain lion released Sadie and ran the other way,” said Whannel.

Sadie was badly hurt but was able to walk. She underwent a three-hour surgery at the vet, lost an eye and received more than 70 stitches. Whannel says her spirits are high, and she’s on her way to making a full recovery.

“Considering what she went through, she’s doing fantastic,” said Whannel.

Just days after Sadie’s attack, another dog was killed by a mountain lion in Estes Park. Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages people to keep pets on a leash at all times and avoid walking them between dusk and dawn, when mountain lions are most active.

If your pet is attacked, CPW advises yelling loudly and throwing things at the mountain lion from a safe distance before getting closer.

“I’ll never let Sadie out in the yard without a leash. I guess I thought I was taking enough precaution by checking with a flashlight to see if I could see movement,” said Whannel.

More information about living in areas with mountain lions is available on CPW’s website.

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