First fatal mountain lion attack in California in 20 years leaves one man dead, brother injured, authorities say

Mar 24, 2024, 8:47 PM

One person died and another was injured after a mountain lion attack in a remote part of El Dorado ...

One person died and another was injured after a mountain lion attack in a remote part of El Dorado County in the Georgetown, California, area on Saturday. (KCRA via CNN Newsource)

(KCRA via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — One man died and another was injured in the first fatal mountain lion attack in California in 20 years, according to authorities.

An 18-year-old called authorities around 1:13 p.m. local time Saturday to report he and his 21-year-old brother were attacked by a mountain lion while antler shed hunting in the Georgetown area, according to an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office news release.

The caller was separated from his brother during the attack and suffered “traumatic injuries” to his face, according to the release. Deputies and paramedics administered aid and took him to a hospital for further treatment.

Deputies searching for the missing brother found him on the ground next to the crouched mountain lion around 1:46 p.m., the release said.

The deputies fired their weapons to ward off the mountain lion so they could get to the brother, according to the release.

Scaring the mountain lion off

“Deputies discharged their firearms in order to scare the mountain lion off so they could render medical aid,” the release read. When they reached him, they realized the 21-year-old had died, according to the sheriff’s office.

“A fatality like this is extremely rare,” Kyle Parker, a spokesperson for the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN affiliate KCRA.

The last fatal mountain lion attack in the state dates back to 2004, when a 35-year-old man was killed at Whiting Ranch Regional Park in Orange County, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s list of “verified mountain lion-human attacks.”

“According to historical reports, four fatal incidents involving six victims occurred around the turn of the previous century,” the agency notes. There have been 21 mountain lion attacks – defined as “direct physical contact between a human and a mountain lion resulting in physical injury or death” – since 1986, according to the list, not including the Saturday incident.

The mountain lion was later found by wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the El Dorado County trapper, according to Parker.

“The mountain lion was dispatched, and the body of the mountain lion was collected for further examination,” he said.

DNA from the euthanized animal confirmed it was the same animal that fatally attacked the man, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in an updated news release Sunday.

The male cougar weighed about 90 pounds and appeared to be in healthy condition, though “forensic scientists will continue analyzing necropsy results to determine whether there were underlying health conditions related to this particular animal,” officials said.

Investigation into the attack

The department will now try to find out why this attack happened, according to Parker.

Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, according to the state agency. This is the first fatal mountain lion attack in California in 30 years.

The last recorded fatal mountain lion attack in El Dorado County was reported in April 1994, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A 40-year-old woman died after an attack in the Auburn State Recreation Area.

Since 1890, there have been fewer than 50 reported mountain lion attacks on humans in California, and only six of those have been fatal, according to California wildlife officials. In most cases, the person was alone when the attack occurred, according to the department.

CNN has reached out to authorities for more information about the attack.

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First fatal mountain lion attack in California in 20 years leaves one man dead, brother injured, authorities say