Can music soothe a savage beast? If you were to ask 40-year-old Kyra Kopenstonsky, she will tell you that it might have saved her from a cougar attack. Kopenstonsky was hiking a trail near Down Valley Park in Placerville, Colorado on Monday when she encountered a mountain lion. According to a report by the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, the lion stalked the hiker for about 20 minutes, during which it would often jump forward and crouch whenever Kopenstonsky attempted to move backwards. She told deputies that when she first saw the animal, she picked up a large branch and attempted to look big. That did not seem to faze the cat, so Kopenstonsky said she did the next thing that came to her mind.

“I don’t know why, I just started singing opera really loud,” Koestonsky later told KUSA. “It kind of put its ears down and just kept looking at me, and it sort of backed away. Then, it came around the bushes an came towards me again and crouched about 10 feet away.”

Although the singing did not repel the animal, it may have deterred the mountain lion from directly attacking the hiker. Koestonsky said that the large cat alternated from grooming itself, pacing, and following her. At one point, the mountain lion was a mere eight feet away from the hiker.

“I would back up and it would creep forward, so I’d stop. Eventually it sort of crouched down, like part way,” Kopestonsky said. “So, I start backing up down the mountain, which was really steep.”

The hiker took advantage of lulls in the encounter to call her roommate, who in turn informed the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff William Masters and six deputies responded to the emergency, but Kopestonsky emerged at the trailhead by herself. Deputies noted that the woman as shaken, but uninjured.

“We’re glad this turned out to be nothing more than a frightening experience for the hiker. She was obviously educated as to what to do in this unexpected situation,” Sheriff Masters said.

Masters added that the county is not known for mountain lion sightings, having only a few dozen reported in his 34 years in office and only one prior stalking. The Colorado Department of Wildlife has been notified of the encounter and are considering what, if any, actions the department will take. Kopestonsky described the mountain lion as healthy, uninjured, and not acting strangely outside of following her and wildlife officials have not stated whether the incident should be considered a predatory act.

In a press release, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office shared the following tips for those who decide to venture into cougar territory:

  • Travel in groups, keep children close by, and make plenty of noise to lower your chances of surprising a lion.
  • If you spot a mountain lion, do not approach it, especially one that is feeding or with kittens.
  • Allow the lion a way to escape. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation.
  • Face the lion, try to stay calm, do NOT run, as that may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • Stand upright, grab a large stick if possible, and raise your arms in an effort to appear larger, and back away slowly.
  • Sing or speak in a firm voice to help demonstrate that you are human and not prey.
  • If you have small children with you, pick them up.
  • If the lion becomes aggressive, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. Do not turn your back to the lion or bend down.
  • Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. In fact, there is a greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. If attacked, fight back.

File image from Greg Hume on the Wikimedia Commons

What's Your Reaction?

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  • Petrious Stew

    wish i could hear her sing

  • joe

    Its probably frightening

  • Adam

    “Faze”?!?! Really?

    • Mark

      Would you prefer they incorrectly use “phase” rather than correctly use “faze”?

      • Adam

        What the hell? How is that a thing? I mean I obviously stand corrected but I’m not sure if I can go on living.

  • Randy Spocter

    That photo is totes adorable!!!!!!!!!!!<3<3

    • randy sucks

      Shut up

  • Shea

    It’s lightning not lightening.

  • JeffRo

    Struck by lightening? Is that like when Michael Jackson got vitiligo?

  • hiker2

    Just guessing here,
    but if the cat wanted to eat her it would attack from behind. Maybe it was just
    playing with her, that is what cats do. That said, carry bear sized pepper
    spray, just in case.

    • futurewidow

      I think you’re right. It also could’ve been a juvenile who was curious/playing.

      • comatus

        Or an opera fan. Anything’s possible.

      • Remi

        Another real LOL – this thread is a riot!

    • Calvin Coolidge

      I agree. Stealth is the greatest weapon of most cats. If it wanted to attack, you would never see it coming.

  • Vacuoso

    “If attacked, fight back–that lottery ticket in your back pocket is surely a winner.”

  • LydiLouiKats

    Cool story! At least she is alive, and didn’t get mauled! Singing is good! 🙂

  • David Govett

    Hope she didn’t sing an Alban Berg opera.

  • ChipsterNGA

    I can’t imagine hiking unarmed and I lived in Colorado for 25 years. Cat woulda got the 357 treatment from me.

    • Russel aka ‘Rusty’ Shackleford

      I love cats, have given money to mountain lion rescue organizations. That said, I would likely have fired one warning shot to try and scare kitty away with the noise, failing that, the next would have been a 200 gr hard-cast 10mm to the cranial vault. It is not good when a large predator lacks a health fear of man, not good for either of us.

      • The Walrus

        People sure do talk a lot…

      • Mark Parsons

        So what would you do? Co Co Ca Joob it to death?

      • The Walrus

        You obviously misunderstood the meaning of that comment.

  • ANevskyUSA

    So…like the audience applauding at La Scala, the lion kept approaching threateningly until she got the aria right? 🙂

  • ajb

    Which opera? It would be helpful to know, so that the rest of us know what to sing in this situation. I’m betting “The Magic Flute” would have worked, but if she sang something from “Nixon in China” she would have been eaten very quickly.

  • Calvin Coolidge

    “Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare. In fact, there is a greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. If attacked, fight back.
    This statement means nothing. Only a small number of people even live in mountain lion country. Everybody on the planet is exposed to lightning. If people were exposed to mountain lions at the same rate they were exposed to lightning, the risk of being attacked by a lion would significantly exceed the risk of being struck by lightning..

  • Georce Johnson

    I’d go with Metallica.

  • Cp4056

    Poor kitty, no animal- human or otherwise should have to endure opera.

    • Remi

      Literally LOL at this comment!

  • Blackgriffin

    “Sing or speak in a firm voice to help demonstrate that you are human and not prey.” Why would a mountain lion think a human is not prey? We’re walking meat, just like any other animal. We don’t think of ourselves as prey, because we don’t think of ourselves as animals. A hungry mountain lion (or any other large predator) knows better.

  • lilibetp

    Wonder what she sang?