Bay Area/ North SF Bay Area/ Weather & Environment
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Published on March 25, 2024
Mountain Lion Responsible for California's First Fatal Attack in 20 Years Slain, DNA Testing ConfirmsSource: Unsplash / Zach Key

In a chilling encounter in the wilds of Northern California, a mountain lion attacked two brothers while they were shed hunting in the Georgetown area, leaving the elder brother dead and the younger severely injured. Georgetown is roughly halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office reported that the 18-year-old survivor called for help at around 1:13 p.m. on Saturday after being mauled by the animal and sustaining traumatic facial wounds, as ABC7 detailed.

The deceased, a 21-year-old man was found dead by the responding deputies next to the predatory cat, and despite their efforts to scare the mountain lion away to render aid to the victim, it was too late. "Deputies discharged their firearms in order to scare the mountain lion off so they could render medical aid," the sheriff's office communicated in the aftermath of the tragedy, marking the first fatal mountain lion encounter in the state in 20 years. This rare and unfortunate event mirrored the last known fatality which dates back to 2004, when a mountain lion killed a 35-year-old man at Whiting Ranch Regional Park in Orange County, causing for a reckoning with nature as California Department of Fish and Wildlife's "verified mountain lion-human attacks" list has now recorded 21 attacks since 1986.

Officials at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had their worst fears confirmed when DNA evidence gathered at the scene conclusively matched the euthanized mountain lion, "The mountain lion was dispatched, and the body of the mountain lion was collected for further examination," CDFW spokesperson Kyle Parker announced. The young male mountain lion which weighed in at around 90 pounds appeared to be in healthy condition, seemingly ruling out disease or starvation as a factor for the attack.

In a statement released to the public, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham expressed sympathy for the affected family, "First and foremost, our hearts go out to the families and loved ones affected by this tragic incident, our thoughts are with them during this difficult time," said Bonham. While mountain lion attacks are a rarity, residents and visitors in areas with known wildlife presence are urged to stay vigilant and prepared in case of an encounter. The wildlife department reminds the public that such incidents are exceptional, with a person's chances of a mountain lion attack being 1,000 times less likely than being struck by lightning, as noted by wildlife research veterinarian Winston Vickers in discussions with the Washington Post.