PERRIS, Calif. (AP) — Experts will examine the torn clothing of a homeless man to determine whether a mountain lion mauled him at his California campsite, a state wildlife official said Monday.
Workers at a forensics laboratory in Sacramento will try to find saliva and conduct testing to see if it came from a cougar, perhaps even whether it was a male or female, said Lt. Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish and Game.
Foy said the man's extensive wounds led authorities to suspect it was a mountain lion that attacked him on Friday at his trash-littered encampment near State Route 74 about 70 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
The man was badly clawed and bitten but didn't immediately seek help, Foy said.
"After he was attacked it appears that he wrapped himself up with a big blanket, comforter-type thing, and possibly spent some time at night like that," Foy said. "The comforter is absolutely soaked with blood … it's amazing that anyone could survive."
Early Saturday, he left the camp and walked about a half-mile to a house where he knocked on the door and told a man to call 911, Foy said.
"He said, 'I got attacked yesterday by an animal,'" Foy said.
The man, whose name hasn't been released, remained hospitalized with massive trauma to his head, neck, scalp, body and arms, Foy said.
"It was trying to kill him," Foy said. "They say he'll survive but he's not out of the woods yet."
Wildlife experts found no mountain lion tracks near the site.
It's impossible to determine what may have prompted the attack, although in most such cases the cougar attacks for food, Foy said.
Authorities will remain in the area for a few days in hope of spotting the animal. Authorities have failed to find the animal using baited traps and weekend night patrols by a Riverside County sheriff's helicopter equipped with infrared sensors.
If the attacking animal is found, it will be destroyed for public safety, Foy said.
Meantime, people should assume that the lion is still out there and is dangerous, he said, urging people to keep children close and pets inside.
There have been only 16 verified mountain lion attacks on humans in California since 1890, six fatal, according to state wildlife department records.
The last documented attack occurred in January 2007 in Humboldt County. The last fatal Southern California attack was in 2004 in Whiting Ranch Regional Park in Orange County.