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Heroic wife defends husband from mountain lion attack

By Gary Bogue
Monday, January 29th, 2007 at 10:16 am in Mountain lion.

Last Wednesday, a man and a woman were hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County, 320 miles north of San Francisco, when the man was attacked by a mountain lion.

According to a wire story by Associated Press writer Lisa Leff, “Nell Hamm said she grabbed a four-inch wide log and beat the animal with it,” but it wouldn’t let go of her husband Jim’s head. Nell tried to stab the lion in the eye with a pen she took from her husband’s pocket but the pen broke so she went back to pounding on the big cat with her log.

This quote from the AP story really says it all: “The lion eventually let go and with blood on its snout stood staring at the woman, who screamed and waved her wooden weapon until the animal slowly walked away.”

If you ever encounter a large predator in the wild (lion, coyote, whatever) and feel threatened by the animal, stand as tall as you can, wave a weapon or your arms, throw rocks and scream at the predator to let it know who is boss. If you are ever attacked by a mountain lion, fight and yell. Don’t ever give up.

Nell saved Jim’s life because she fought and she wouldn’t give up.

Fish and Game wardens used dogs to track down two young lions, a male and female, near the attack site. The female lion was shot Wednesday and the male on Thursday. The state forensics lab identified the female lion as the attacker (human blood on her claws).

Mountain lions are incredibly powerful animals with amazing reflexes. Back in the 1970s when I was curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, I raised several surplus zoo mountain lion cubs so the museum’s wildlife rescue program could study their development. We wanted to apply what we learned to rehabilitating orphaned wild cubs.

One time several of us were in the field working with a 9-month-old, 80-pound male lion. The enormous cub was standing about 8-10 feet away from me when it suddenly leaped through the air and struck me full in the chest (in one bound!), knocking me to the ground flat on my back. All the air was smashed from my lungs and as I laid there, utterly helpless and gasping, the lion started purring and licking my beard. Fortunately, it was just playing.

I can only imagine the unbelievable power and fear that goes with a REAL mountain lion attack. That’s why Nell Hamm is a brave and heroic woman. The same goes for her badly-injured husband, Jim, who somehow mustered his strength to get up (at Nell’s insistent urging) and they hiked together to a nearby trail head where they met a ranger who called for help.

What a great couple!

Today, Jim is in serious condition and probably undergoing more surgery to repair his injuries. My thoughts are with him and his very special wife, Nell.

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2 Responses to “Heroic wife defends husband from mountain lion attack”

  1. Mike "troll" Dame Says:

    i heard somewhere today that in the past 100 years there have only been 14 mountain lion attacks, i dunno if thats for Cal, the US or N.America but id be interested in how it breaks down year to year.
    i use to haunt the old quarry that was on Ygnacio Valley rd by Cowell rd back before they built them houses there and often came across mountain lion prints in the mud when water was there, and one morning even came across a freshly killed deer up in the tree area above the quarry, im sure that cat was close but never did see it:(
    even though attacks are totally rare i still worry about them happening to me being a regular night time visitor to many parks/open spaces in my search for different scorpion species and i often wonder about the effectiveness of bear repellent on mountain lions

  2. Gary Says:

    Mike:
    16 attacks in the last 100 years, as I recall. The majority have happened since 1990, an indicator that we humans are moving into their habitat and increasing the chance of an encounter.
    I don’t know about using spray bear repellent on them. That stuff is potent, but it hasn’t been tested on cats. It might make them angry instead of chasing them away. Of course, if the cat has already grabbed you, what have you got to lose?
    You could always give it one of your scorpions. /Gary

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