Mountain Lion Attacks California Shed Hunters, Killing One and Injuring Another

The young men were looking for antlers northeast of Sacramento when they were attacked. The 90-pound male cougar was euthanized the same day
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A dead California mountain lion lying in the dirt.
A deceased California mountain lion. The 90-pound tom that killed one man and injured his brother was euthanized Saturday. Photo by NPS

A 21-year-old man has died and his 18-year-old brother is recovering from multiple surgeries after the pair encountered a male mountain lion while shed hunting in El Dorado County, California, on Saturday. It’s the first fatal mountain lion attack in the state in decades.

At 1:13 p.m., EDSO received a call from the unidentified younger brother reporting the attack, which occurred near Darling Ridge Road and Skid Road in Georgetown. He sustained multiple injuries to his face and had been separated from his older brother during the attack, according to a press release EDSO posted to its Facebook page on Saturday evening. Responding officers and paramedics arrived on the scene and located the younger brother at 1:34 p.m. before discovering the older brother on the ground nearby at 1:46 p.m. A male cougar was crouching beside the body.

Officers fired shots to scare the big cat away and tried to administer aid to the older brother, but confirmed the man was deceased. Officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the El Dorado County trapper responded and located the mountain lion to dispatch it.

The names of the victims have not been released to the public, but the 18-year-old is expected to make a full recovery, a representative of the family informed El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday. CDFW also confirmed that DNA from the dispatched mountain lion matches DNA involved in the attack. 

CDFW also points out that this is the first fatal mountain lion attack in California in over 20 years. A 35-year-old man was killed in Whiting Ranch Regional Park in Orange County in January 2004. Prior to that, the only other recorded fatalities since record-keeping began in 1986 both occurred in 1994: one 40-year-old woman was killed by a cougar that April in the Auburn State Recreation Area (also in El Dorado County) and one 56-year-old woman died in December of that year in Cuyamaca State Park in San Diego County. A total of 19 recorded non-fatal attacks have also occurred across the state since 1986 — eight of which, or 42 percent, have happened in the last decade.

California hasn’t hosted a mountain lion hunt since 1972, and the species received special protections with the passage of the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990. Many Californians, particularly those who live in El Dorado County and knew the impacted family, have since called on CDFW to reinstitute a hunt. 

“Lion hunting may be illegal in [California] but dozens to [hundreds] still die … by contracted trappers. [That’s an] economically unsustainable system that puts value on the dead cat. The ban on hunting is about human control, lions still die,” one commenter writers. “Instead we need regulated, scientifically informed hunting that puts value on the opportunity to hunt AND funds massive amounts of science, research and informed decisions. The state could hire 5 more full time biologists and lions would be better for it. And a harvested lion provides great resources – a state trapper killed lion goes to a landfill.”

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CDFW confirmed in January the state has roughly 25 to 46 percent fewer mountain lions than previously estimated: 3,200 to 4,500 individuals rather than the original 6,000-cougar count that stood for decades. EDSO warned that while multiple GoFundMe accounts for the family have popped up, the family has not started or authorized any of them.