KALISPELL (AP) – A hunter suffered cuts and scratches after being attacked by a mountain lion southeast of here over the weekend, state wildlife officials said Monday.
The attack happened early Sunday in the Squeezer Creek area, said Warden Chuck Bartos of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Bartos said the hunter, whose name was not released, left his car and headed down a trail, and later heard what sounded like the scream of a mountain lion.
A short time later, the hunter heard a growl and turned to see the lion 10 to 15 feet away. He dropped his rifle and hurried to get behind a tree, but the lion pounced on his back, knocking him into the tree, Bartos said in a news release.
The lion then lost its grip, and the hunter was able to reach another gun and fire a shot. The spooked lion ran away.
The man fired several more shots and then headed back down the trail. He encountered several other hunters who helped him to his vehicle.
The hunter then drove himself to Kalispell and went to the hospital, where he received five stitches for cuts the lion clawed on his leg, Bartos said. The hunter also was treated for scratches on his back and shoulder, and for a few puncture wounds to the back of his head.
Bartos said the hunter’s backpack was shredded and probably saved him from more serious injuries.
Wildlife conflict specialist Erik Wenum said the incident marks the first time in years that a lion attack resulting in injury has been documented in northwestern Montana.
“Given the number of people who recreate in the forests of northwest Montana, and the number of lions, there’s always lots of potential for an encounter,” added Jim Williams, FWP wildlife manager. “But even considering this potential, documented attacks are extremely rare.”
The chances of a mountain lion encounter increase during hunting season because hunters use calls and other methods to attract deer, Wenum said. Hunters using these techniques should be especially vigilant because a lion could easily be drawn in search of prey, he said.
Wenum said no response to a mountain lion can guarantee human safety, but he provided the following tips:
— Don’t run from a mountain lion; move slowly and try to back away from it.
— When hiking in lion country, make enough noise to avoid surprising a lion.
— Always keep children close and in sight.
— Never approach a mountain lion; give it a way out of a close situation.
— If you encounter a lion, stay calm. Talk to it in a confident voice.
— Do not turn your back on a mountain lion; maintain eye contact and face the animal.
— Let the lion know you are not a deer by remaining in an upright position.
— If a lion behaves aggressively, arm yourself with a large stick, rock or other object. If the lion attacks, stay standing and fight back with whatever object you have. Use pepper spray to deter an attack.
Wenum said all of northwestern Montana is lion country, and residents should report any mountain lion incidents — such as aggressive behavior toward people or pets — to Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
He added that providing food to deer can concentrate the animals, attracting mountain lions and creating a dangerous situation for people.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.