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Every Fatal Mountain Lion Attack In US History

Updated September 23, 2021 10k views15 items

Mountain lions are part of the natural environment in many parts of the United States, especially rural areas. While the animals are vital to ecosystems nationwide, they are naturally wild predators who evolved to hunt and can be dangerous. While mountain lion attacks are a very rare occurrence, they do happen on occasion if humans get too close to their natural habitats. In United States history, fatalities due to mountain lion attacks have been recorded since 1890. Since then, there have been numerous deaths caused by mountain lions.

Mountain lions are usually unlikely to attack people as they mostly stick to regions where humans are not present. People attacked by mountain lions are often alone in the wilderness when they come across a cat who is already on the hunt. Hikers, backpackers, and those who simply live in secluded areas may accidentally encroach on a big cat's territory. Once a mountain lion attacks, it can be hard to overpower the animal and victims often die from their injuries. While such accidents are relatively rare, they are not unheard of. Cougars can kill you under the right circumstances, so browse this list and be conscious that we share this planet with many other creatures.

  • Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Attack: December 10, 1994

    Victim: Iris M. Kenna

    Circumstances Surrounding the Attack: Iris M. Kenna, 56, was hiking alone in California's Cuyamaca Rancho State Park when she was attacked and killed by a mountain lion. Her body was found about 50 feet from the hiking trail, which led investigators to believe she was running from the animal when she was attacked from behind.

    The Department of Fish and Game tracked down and killed a mountain lion suspected of being responsible for the attack on Kenna. Mountain lions tend to remain near their kills so they can return and consume them hours after the initial attack.

  • Sacramento, California Attack: April 23, 1994

    Victim: Barbara Barsalou Schoener

    Circumstances Surrounding the Attack: Barbara Schoener, 40, was jogging in the Auburn State Recreation area along the Sierra foothills outside of Sacramento, California when she was attacked and mauled by a cougar. Her autopsy revealed she was attacked, but was able to break free and run away only to be pounced on a second time.

    A female mountain lion was found in the area close to where the body was found. The California Department of Fish and Game killed the animal to prevent another attack.

  • Idaho Springs, Colorado: January 14, 1991

    Victim: Scott Dale Lancaster

    Circumstances Surrounding the Attack: Scott Lancaster, 18, was jogging near his Idaho Springs, Colorado high school when he was attacked by a three year old male mountain lion. Authorities theorize the lion may have been stalking Lancaster for awhile in a cat and mouse game before attacking him from behind. Lancaster likely died before he had a chance to defend himself. 

    Lancaster was found days later with the mountain lion still guarding his body. Hunters engaged the animal and killed it. Lancaster was the first recorded death by mountain lion in Colorado's history.

  • Missoula County, Montana Attack: September 9, 1989

    Victim: Jake Thomas Gardipee

    Circumstances Surrounding the Attack: Jake Gardipee, 5, was riding his tricycle behind his Missoula County, Montana home when at least two, but possibly three, cougars attacked him. His body was found hours after the attack alongside paw prints and scat, which indicated at least two mountain lion kittens and an adult had been responsible. One adult lion was found and killed near the kill site while the others were never located.