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.