Saturday, September 23, 2023

Women Fight Off Mountain Lion to Save Dog in Trinity County

A Mountain Lion caught on a game camera near Los Angeles in 2015 [Photograph from the National Park Service]

Yesterday afternoon, two women fought off a mountain lion that attacked a young German Shepherd and slightly injured the dog’s owner in the White’s Bar area between Del Loma and Big Bar in Trinity County.

According to Sharon Houston who was one of the women, “About 2:45 p.m., I was driving on 299 from the Coast to Weaverville when I saw a woman trying to wave someone down. She was frantic about it.”

The red marker shows the Whites Bar picnic area between the Trinity River and Hwy 299. The yellow dot shows the location of where the woman fought off the mountain lion. [Information from Sharon Houston]

Houston said that young, slender woman yelled while jumping up and down at a day use area beside the road. “She was really young and really small,” described Houston. “My height about 5’5″ but really thin–maybe 100 pounds soaking wet.”

As the woman was “pretty scraped up” and obviously upset, Houston didn’t feel she could keep driving especially as there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road. One other car had gone past that she saw, and she didn’t know how long before anyone else would come by. In addition, there wasn’t any cell service.

When Houston pulled over, she could see the woman was holding an extendable baton so she cautiously rolled down her window. The woman, angry and almost crying rushed over. “She was mad and terrified at the same time,” Houston said. The woman told Houston that “a mountain lion had just attacked her dog and she wanted to know if I had a weapon–which I didn’t other than my little pepper spray.”

Houston had been a day camp counselor when young so she had learned to be “overprepared.” She said she “grabbed a stick and some pepper spray” and followed the woman over the edge down a trail towards the river.

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“Right at the edge of the trees, I saw the mountain lion had the dog by the throat,” Houston explained. The tiny other woman ran towards the attacking lion and her dog. “She started hitting it with her baton and screaming,” Houston told us. “She was very determined to stop this mountain lion from attacking her dog so I couldn’t leave her.”

Besides, Houston said wryly, “Two against one, right?”

In addition, the mountain lion looked “emaciated,” she told us, and its eyes seemed “clouded like it might be partially blind.”

Houston stepped forward…”I thought, ‘here we go,’” she said. “So I started hitting it on the head, trying to get it to let go…I was just trying to get that thing away.”

She paused her story and said in amazement, “I think I’m a little crazy for doing that.”

In response to the two women’s attack, the lion let go of the dog. “At that point the dog just vanished from my view,” she said.

“[The mountain lion] swiped at us and bared its teeth,” Houston told us. “I opened up my pepper spray and just hosed its face. It was the longest 5 to 10 seconds…I begged, ‘Please work, please work, please work.”

Fortunately, no wind was blowing so Houston said the spray stayed away from the women.

After the lion swiped at them, it retreated a little and the dog jumped up and raced off up the hill. “I saw blood but not blood dripping,” Houston said. “The dog wasn’t limping or dragging itself.”

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The two women began backing up the hill. “In the fight, she lost her glasses,” Houston told us. “[The mountain lion] turns away and goes up the river a ways and [the other woman] went up the hill.” Houston said she kept backing for a bit. “I had the stick crossways ready to use it. I didn’t close my pepper spray in case I needed to use it.”

When they got back to the parking area, another car had stopped. “A gentleman was there,” she explained. “He heard us yelling.” But, none of them had cell service so they couldn’t call for help or report the attack at that time.

The group briefly checked in with each other but didn’t even exchange names. “The woman had been bit,” Houston said. “It was on her hand–just one little cut…[The woman] gave me a hug. I gave her a first aid kit” for her dog. Then the three set out eastward in their separate vehicles.

“I stopped at the Big Bar ranger station to report it to him,” Houston said.

Eventually, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife officer, Jason Smith, contacted Houston thinking her report to the ranger had been a separate attack. But, it wasn’t. The woman had reported the attack on her dog to CDFW. We’ve reached out to CDFW and have not heard from them yet. However, we spoke to Ruth Esperance of the US Forest Service and she knew the attack had been reported yesterday.

Sharon Houston told us, “I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve never had anything like that happen…I don’t think I’m going to let my cat outside the house for a good year.”

She added, “I’m getting a bigger thing of bear mace…The one I had was 14 ounces and it felt extremely tiny.”

This article is the work of the indelible Kym Kemp who is the lead reporter and editor of Redheaded Blackbelt. Check out her coverage of the Emerald Triangle.

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  1. Steel toe hiking boots & aluminum baseball bat helps deter animals even dogs. Bear spray, collapsible baton. Flare Gun. Even a torch might work to brand the animal attacking you or your pets

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