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Man claims mountain lion attacked him

August 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A hiker was injured by a mountain lion after allegedly petting one of three cubs near Portola Hills in Orange County.Kevin Lassiter, 47, was out for a walk near the Borrego Trail in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park when he allegedly came across three mountain lion cubs at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Lassiter is from Foothill Ranch and says he hikes in the area quite frequently. But this time the hike ended with a trip to the hospital. Lassiter suffered minor injuries and has since been released.

Lassiter spoke first to Eyewitness News.

"I'm doing all right," said Lassiter. "I saw the cubs, but I didn't see her at first. And I walked and I said, 'Oh, I want to pet this kitty.' And here she comes out and ... I went to touch the kitty ... and she just pawed me ... She just clawed me is what she did. In other words, 'Back away from my kittens.'"

"The victim is very fortunate that he was not hurt worse than he was by the mother mountain lion," said Jim Amormino, Orange County Sheriff's Department.

A wildlife specialist with the Department of Fish and Game says Lassiter's wound is not consistent with an injury from a mountain lion attack. Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino says if Lassiter is found to have filed a false report, sheriff's officials will look to prosecute him.

The attack allegedly happened about a mile into the park, a popular spot for hikers and bikers. However, there are signs warning of mountain lions everywhere.

"If you're going to go up and pet one, that's really asking for it," said cyclist Scott Van Dell.

"Not too smart," said cyclist Dave Katanich. "I mean, it's a wild animal. Especially a mother with their babies ... You don't want to get between that -- any wild animal that has its offspring with them."

Several miles away, in January 2004, a mountain lion killed 35-year-old cyclist Mark Jeffrey Reynolds. That mountain lion also seriously injured another cyclist, Anne Hjelle. The 110-pound mountain lion in that case was killed.

The park was closed on Wednesday while authorities looked for the mountain lion and the cubs.

Authorities say Lassiter allegedly provoked the attack when he touched the cubs. The mother was just trying to protect her offspring.

Authorities also say if they do find the mountain lion and its cubs, they will tranquilize them and take them to a sanctuary in San Diego because they have had human contact.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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