A Marin County man is recovering at home after being attacked by a mountain lion in the Sierra Nevada foothills early Sunday morning, as the search the cat continues.
The 63-year-old man, who has declined to be identified or have his place of residence publicized for now, was in a sleeping bag on a sandbar along a tributary of the Yuba River near Nevada City when he was attacked around 1 a.m. Sunday, California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy said.
"It was a remote area few miles northwest of Nevada City. It was a secret spot he knew about," Foy said.
The man was traveling through Nevada County on a hiking trip, Foy said.
"He felt a paw on the side of his head. It woke him out of a deep sleep. He was startled, and that initiated the ferocious attack," Foy said.
The attack lasted between one and a half and two minutes. The lion bit and clawed the man through the sleeping bag and through the cap and clothing he was wearing, Foy said.
The cat bit the man in the scalp, hand, wrist and armpit, and scratched his back, Foy said. The victim sustained severe bites and scratches to his scalp, and in particular, his left arm and armpit. He also has significant scratches on his back. A sample of the lion's saliva was recovered from the man's armpit.
After the attack, the lion stared at the man from 15 feet away for 15-30 seconds and then ran into the night, Foy said. The man drove to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley where he was treated for severe puncture wounds and scratches, and was released about six hours later, Foy said.
The man then drove back to Marin County, changed his bandages and got a good night's sleep, Foy said.
Foy spoke to the victim Monday and offered to help him with the intense media attention he was about to receive.
"He asked for confidentiality for a couple of days," Foy said. The media will be alerted of any press conference "to get it all done at once," Foy said.
The Department of Fish and Game collected the man's sleeping bag and clothing for analysis at its wildlife forensics laboratory in Sacramento, Foy said.
Wardens found lion tracks at the site of the attack, and dogs tried to track the lion but were not successful, Foy said. They also found the remains of a domestic cat with injuries consistent with a mountain lion attack.
They have redoubled their effort and will work through the July 4 holiday and beyond.
“So far the teams have had an extremely difficult time locating fresh scent,” said DFG Capt. Brian Naslund. “Any unnecessary disturbance, or human presence in the area, jeopardizes the quality of the scent, and therefore a successful outcome.”
There have been 15 confirmed mountain lion attacks in California since 1890. Six of them were fatal.
--Bay City News Service