Mountain lion attacks man camping along Salt River in Gila County

Mar 20, 2023, 6:15 AM | Updated: 3:47 pm

(National Park Service Photo)...

(National Park Service Photo)

(National Park Service Photo)

PHOENIX — A 64-year-old man on a rafting trip was attacked by a mountain lion while camping on the edge of the Salt River, Gila County officials said.

A group of 10 rafters attempted to fight off the big cat with their paddles last Thursday and managed to reach safety on their rafts, according to a press release.

Gila County Animal Care and Control Officers, San Carlos Game and Fish, White Mountain Apache Tribe and Arizona Game and Fish increased surveillance in the area to find the cat.

The victim involved in the attack is doing well but remains sore, Gila County officials said in an email.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe sent a group of Department of Agriculture hunters with hound dogs to follow the mountain lion’s tracks, but the cat has not yet been found, officials said.

Mountain lion attacks are rare, as cougars largely avoid developed areas, according to AZGFD.

For example, only 13 attacks have occurred in California since 2000, one of which fatal.

But male cats can grow up to 150 pounds and have the capability to seriously injure or kill a person.

AZGFD advises people to not approach mountain lions, as they typically avoid confrontation.

During an encounter, the department instructs people to face the animal, speak in a loud voice, try to appear larger, slowly back away and fight back if attacked as opposed to running.

Any attacks or sightings on urban areas can be reported to Arizona Game and Fish Department Dispatch 623-236-7201.

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Mountain lion attacks man camping along Salt River in Gila County