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SLO County, California teenager says he was attacked by a cougar, not a cat

SLO County, California teenager says he was attacked by a cougar, not a cat

An Arroyo Grande teenager stuck to his story that he was attacked by a mountain lion last week, despite authorities’ assurances that the attack was more likely carried out by an ordinary cat.

The 19-year-old dirt bike rider reported being attacked by a mountain lion that jumped out of a tree as he rode past on James Way on July 3. Speaking to The Tribune, the teen’s father asked that his son’s identity not be revealed.

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated the incident and sent DNA samples to the agency’s Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Sacramento for genetic testing.

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When the lab results came in, they found evidence of the DNA of a domestic cat, officials told The Tribune – not that of a puma.

When asked for comment on Wednesday, the teenage dirt bike rider said he remained convinced he had been attacked by something much larger than a house cat.

“First I saw something the size of a dog – a big dog – fall from the tree and just miss me,” he told The Tribune.

The dirt biker said he was unable to get a close look at the animal because he was traveling at about 20 mph and had no time to process what had happened.

He said that about half a second after he saw the animal go down, and as he hit the throttle to “get out of there,” something grabbed his helmet and yanked him backward, nearly knocking him unconscious.

“I almost got run over,” he said, adding that he was very scared as he drove away.

He said he later went back to see if a tree had fallen or if there was anything else on the trail that might have fallen on him while he was driving.

“There was nowhere I could have hit my head on, no tree had fallen down,” he said.

He said he suffered a mild concussion as well as neck pain and soreness after the incident.

According to Fish and Wildlife, the DNA from the crime scene came from a cat and not a mountain lion

Patrick Foy, a captain in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s law enforcement division, said the agency initially received a report of a suspected mountain lion jumping from a tree and scratching a person’s leg.

The officers then took samples from the teenager’s clothing and bicycle helmet and analyzed the DNA contained therein.

“No mountain lion DNA was detected in any of the samples,” Foy told The Tribune.

The teenager, meanwhile, said he has cats at home and believes the cat DNA that U.S. Fish and Wildlife found on his helmet likely came from his pets and not from what fell on him.

He added that the animal did not cling to him or fully touch him. This may be why the Fish and Wildlife Service did not find a DNA match to a mountain lion, he said.

“It just caught on the back of my helmet and pulled me backwards,” he said.

A young male mountain lion fell from a tree in Pocatello, Idaho, on April 18 after being tranquilized, officials said. Pocatello Police Department

Mountain lion attacks are rare in California

It is important to know that cougar attacks are extremely rare in California – especially in San Luis Obispo County.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, a human is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a mountain lion.

The agency said only 24 attacks by cougars on humans have been reported in California since 1984. The majority of the incidents were not fatal, although four cases resulted in casualties in El Dorado, San Diego and Orange counties, the agency said.

No attacks have been confirmed in San Luis Obispo County, although an attack was documented in 1992 in Gaviota State Park in Santa Barbara.

To avoid negative encounters with mountain lions, Fish and Wildlife recommends that people be aware of their surroundings and stay in the wild only with companions.

If you encounter a cougar, try to appear larger and more aggressive and never stoop or duck.

To report encounters or attacks, call Fish and Wildlife’s 24-hour operations center at 916-445-0045.

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Kelsey Oliver is an intern for The Tribune. She is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, and is currently a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate Schools of Journalism and Public Health.