Man in sleeping bag attacked by mountain lion in Nevada County
Trackers spent Sunday and Monday unsuccessfully "scouring the area" where a mountain lion attacked a camper near the Yuba River in Nevada County early Sunday.
The 63-year-old man, who is from Marin County, was alone at the time of the attack, said state Department of Fish and Game spokesman Mike Taugher.
"He knows the area well," Taugher said. "He had a hike planned, but it got late and he decided to spend the night."
The man, who was not identified, spread a sleeping bag out near a tributary of the Yuba River northwest of Nevada City.
At about 1 a.m., the man told authorities, he was attacked in his sleeping bag for 11⁄2 minutes to 2 minutes. He said the mountain lion attacked, bit and clawed him through his sleeping bag, biting through the cap he was wearing and his clothes.
"He was in a mummy bag," Taugher said of the man. "He tried as best he could to defend himself."
The animal ceased the attack, looked at him from 15 feet away for another 15 to 30 seconds, then ran off, according to a Fish and Game news release. The man drove himself to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley, where he was treated and later released.
Fish and Game wardens responded to the hospital and verified the man had suffered severe scratches and puncture wounds. They collected several articles of clothing and his sleeping bag, which were analyzed at the department's wildlife forensics lab ratory in Sacramento.
Wardens also responded to the attack scene, where they found lion tracks. Trained dogs attempted to track the mountain lion, but were not successful. They also found the remains of a domestic cat with injuries consistent with a lion attack.
"We do have personnel scouring the area with dogs, looking for the scent," said Warden Patrick Foy. "They haven't been able to get a strong enough scent to pursue the lion."
Mountain lion attacks in California are rare, with only 15 verified incidents since 1890. Of those, six were reported as deaths, although two were due to rabies contracted during the attack. Close to home, runner Barbara Schoener was killed on the American River canyon trail near Coloma in 1994. The most recent verified nonfatal attack was in Humboldt County in 2007.
It is precisely because such incidents are uncommon that it is difficult to extrapolate a reason for Sunday's attack, Taugher said.
"There's not a lot of data to go on," he said. "It has occurred in the past that they have attacked people in sleeping bags."
Mountain lions are unpredictable, Foy added. "Sometimes they can stick by their last kill, and sometimes they will run miles and miles away," he said. "People should exercise normal precautions, but just be a little more alert."
The Department of Fish and Game recommends not hiking, biking or jogging alone, and avoiding hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active — dawn, dusk and at night.
If you encounter a mountain lion, according to Fish and Game, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look larger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children. If attacked, fight back.