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State officials say Hoagie the dog likely provoked the mountain lion

May 6, 2009 |  1:33 pm

State wildlife officials said today that a dog involved in a battle with a mountain lion in the Cleveland National Forest was likely the aggressor and there was no evidence that the cougar had targeted the canine’s owners.

“The report we got was that the dog went up to a mountain lion and the mountain lion ran away and the dog chased it and was mauled,” said Harry Morse, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game. “We went out there and didn’t find any evidence of a mountain lion. They didn’t find any tracks or hair. That’s not to say it wasn’t there.”

Morse said the mountain lion is not being viewed as a threat to public safety and is not being sought by wardens. In cases where an animal is deemed a threat, it is hunted down and killed.

The information is at odds with previous reports that Hoagie, a black shepherd mix, had intercepted a charging mountain lion in a bid to protect its owner.

William Morse of Wildomar told authorities that he was walking with his wife and dog near the Blue Jay campground Tuesday when the mountain lion came toward him. He said Hoagie and the mountain lion battled briefly, leaving the dog badly wounded.

The canine underwent surgery at the Clinton Keith Veterinary Hospital in Wildomar and was released to its owner.

“As far as we can tell, the dog went after the lion, and the lion turned around and attacked the dog,” said Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist for the department of fish and game. “There isn’t any evidence to believe there are any public safety issues. If a mountain lion attacks a human being or attempts to attack a human being, we treat that as a public safety incident, and we have to destroy the animal. That’s not what happened here.”

The Blue Jay and Falcon campgrounds have been closed until May 8 so signs can be put up urging people to exercise caution around mountain lions, said a spokesman for the Cleveland National Forest.

-- David Kelly