GRASS VALLEY — The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has confirmed a mountain lion attacked a 63-year-old man who was camping northwest of Nevada City. The attack occurred in the early morning hours of July 1.
The man was traveling through Nevada County on a planned hiking trip and decided to stop for the night to sleep. He laid a sleeping bag out next to a tributary to the Yuba River. Approximately 1 a.m. he was attacked in his sleeping bag for what he reported to be between 1½ to 2 minutes.
He said the animal attacked, bit and clawed him through his sleeping bag. He said it bit through the cap he was wearing and his clothes. The animal ceased the attack, looked at him from 15 feet away for another 15-30 seconds, then ran into the night. The man drove himself to a hospital in Grass Valley where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries and later released.
DFG wardens responded to the hospital and verified that he had suffered severe scratches and puncture wounds. They collected several articles of clothing and his sleeping bag, which were analyzed at DFG’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Sacramento. Wardens also responded to the attack scene where they found lion tracks. Specially trained dogs attempted to track the lion but were not successful. They also found the remains of one domestic cat with injuries consistent with a lion attack. The effort to find the lion continues.
According to DFG records, California has now had 15 confirmed mountain lion attacks since 1890, although Western Outdoor News has reported on hundreds of stories of mountain lion incidents and attacks that have not been considered "attacks" by the DFG's finite definition.
To be considered an "attack" by the DFG, a mountain lion must physically harm the individual, the DFG must verify the injuries and visit the scene, and they must conclude without doubt that it was, indeed, a mountain lion incident.
Mountain lions have not been hunted in California for decades, and their population numbers continue to escalate in every part of the state, as evidenced by more and more sightings in and near habited areas as their normal ranges are taken up by other mature lions, and their normal food source of deer get killed by other lions, leaving them to search for domestic and farm animals.
Many believe that mountain lions have lost their fear of man due to close association with them, and the lack of hunting and hound chasing that used to instill fear in them.