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Crews continue hunt for mountain lion that attacked sleeping hiker

July 4, 2012 | 11:32 am

Crews have "redoubled their effort" and will work through the 4th of July holiday to track a mountain lion that mauled a sleeping hiker over the weekend in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Nevada County, the Department of Fish and Game said.

The victim, a 63-year-old Marin County man who asked authorities not to release his name, was treated and released at a Grass Valley hospital for puncture and scratch wounds on his scalp and arm, authorities said.

He was driving to a trail head northwest of Nevada City for the start of a hiking trip when he decided to spend the night under the stars at a spot he knew on a tributary of the Yuba River. He unfurled his sleeping bag, fell asleep and woke up about 1 a.m. Sunday to the open jaws of a mountain lion.

The hiker told Fish and Game wardens the mountain lion bit through his sleeping bag and cap in an attack that lasted 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The lion then walked away, briefly looking back before disappearing into the night.

It was only the 15th confirmed mountain lion attack on a human in California since 1890. The most recent was a January 2007 attack on a 70-year-old man in Humboldt County's Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Fish and Game crews began searching for the lion after the attack was reported and said Tuesday night they identified lion tracks near the attack site. The difficulty they've faced, officials said in a statement Tuesday, is finding a fresh scent.

"So far the teams have had an extremely difficult time locating a fresh scent," Capt. Brian Naslund said. "Any unnecessary disturbance, or human presence in the area, jeopardizes the quality of the scent and therefore a successful outcome."

Crews are using dogs and motion sensor cameras to track the animal, which scientists determined was female after extracting DNA from saliva left on the man's armpit. If the lion is found, warden Patrick Foy said, she will be killed "in the interest of public safety."

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