Survival Animal Attacks

Shed Hunter Killed in California Mountain Lion Attack Died Protecting His Brother

"A brother is a friend given by nature. These two brothers were driven by nature"
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Two brothers who were attacked by a mountain lion in California.
Taylen (left) and Wyatt Brooks at home in California; Taylen was killed by the mountain lion after he fought it off Wyatt.

New details have emerged about the fatal California mountain lion attack that took place over the weekend and involved two brothers who were shed hunting in El Dorado County. The local sheriff’s office released an official statement from the family of the victims on Monday. It gives a blow-by-blow account what happened during the attack and paints a picture of two close brothers who were willing to lay down their lives for one another.

Although the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office had released the ages of the victims when the attack was first announced on Saturday, the family’s statement included their names. Taylen Brooks, 21, was killed by the mountain lion, while his younger brother Wyatt Brooks, 18, was badly wounded but is expected to make a full recovery. The family says the boys grew up in the county, where they hunted and fished together every day they could.

“These two young men being as close as any two brothers could be, lived a full energetic life enjoying the outdoors,” the family writes. “A brother is a friend given by nature. These two brothers were driven by nature.”

That drive is what took the brothers into the hills near Kelcey on Saturday to hunt for shed antlers. The family explains that because it was also the opening day of youth turkey season, the Brooks brothers chose not to carry any firearms. Wyatt only brought a small backpack for carrying sheds.

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Taylen and Wyatt were walking down a dirt road around 1 p.m. when they first saw the mountain lion. When the big cat walked onto the road and approached them, the brothers “did what they had always learned” and tried to haze it, raising their hands in the air and yelling. Wyatt even threw his backpack at the cougar, but instead of retreating, it charged, biting Wyatt’s face and knocking him into the dirt.

Taylen immediately came to his brother’s aid. He beat on the mountain lion with his fists as Wyatt wrestled with it and eventually got on top of the lion.

“The lion began clawing at Wyatt’s midsection causing Wyatt to lose his grip,” the family explains. “At that point, the lion released Wyatt, got up and charged Taylen, biting Taylen in the throat and taking Taylen to the ground.”

Wyatt, whose face was severely lacerated, grabbed at the cougar and whacked it as hard as he could, but the cat wouldn’t release his brother. Unable to get cell service, Wyatt ran back to their vehicle and called 911. By the time he made it back to where the attack had occurred, both Taylen and the lion were gone. Wyatt then drove to meet paramedics and was transported to a hospital in Placerville, where he underwent reconstructive surgery for his face and neck. (He was still recuperating in the hospital as of Monday.)

Meanwhile, EDCSO deputies searched the site of the attack and found the mountain lion, which was crouching near Taylen’s body. Unwilling to shoot the lion and potentially strike Taylen, the officers fired a warning shot and the lion ran away. When the officers approached Taylen to administer first aid, they discovered he was already dead.

A young man who was killed my a mountain lion in California.
Taylen at home playing guitar.

Later that afternoon, wildlife officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife tracked the lion with the help of a trapper. Then they treed the lion just 100 yards from where Taylen was found and killed the mountain lion.

The family describes Taylen as an obsessed fisherman who loved being outdoors and a talented guitar player. They say plans for a memorial service are in the works.

“We are all devastated by the tragic loss of Taylen yet thankful Wyatt is still with us and are well aware the outcome could have been even worse,” the family writes. “[Taylen] was a very kind and gentle soul and will deeply missed by all who knew him.”

The family has since established a Brooks Brothers Support Fund through the El Dorado Community Foundation. (They’ve clarified that this is the only legitimate source for donations, and EDCSO warned over the weekend that several unauthorized GoFundMe accounts had been established in the wake of Taylen’s death.)

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CDFW announced in a press release on Sunday that DNA confirmed the lion they dispatched was the same one that attacked the two brothers. According to the agency’s records, only three other fatal mountain lion attacks have occurred in the state since record keeping began in 1986. There have been another 19 non-fatal attacks recorded in that time, with eight of those (or 42 percent of them) occurring in the last decade.

California is home to an estimated 3,200 to 4,500 mountain lions, and the species receives special protections in the state, which hasn’t held a regulated mountain lion hunt since 1972. After the tragedy that occurred last weekend, however, some Californians are speaking up, saying that it’s time for the state to rethink how it manages its cougar population.