Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mountain Lion Attack Stopped by Man with Handgun ... in 2008

Family photo of P.J. Schalow and lion that attacked him

This attack from 2008 shows the utility of a handgun for defense against big predators. In this case, the mountain lion was found to have rabies. That accounted for its lethargic behavior. The lion ignored the adults in the group and went right for the children. P.J. Schalow was 10 years old at the time. The account in Today is the only one to identify the firearm used as a handgun. From
“You could see he was definitely sizing [P.J] up,” Smith said. “He put his paw on his shoulder. He put his mouth directly on top of his head, and I think if the head had been smaller, he’d have been picked up.”

Fortunately, another adult — P.J.’s uncle — in the party had brought a handgun along and had left it in a vehicle that was parked nearby. He ran to get the gun, and when the animal started to investigate whether P.J.’s head was bite-sized, Smith told him to shoot the animal, which he did with one extremely well-placed shot.
Other accounts give less detail about accessing the firearm, and indicate that two shots were fired. Notice that this account is second hand. The person speaking in the article is an Arizona wildlife biologist, Randy Babb. Babb was not present at the attack.  From in 2008:
Babb said the attack occurred while the boy and his family were taking a break from riding all-terrain vehicles. He said while the animal tried to bite Paul's head, it didn't actually do it, only slightly clawing the boy's back.

A member of the group shot the lion twice, killing it, Babb said. He didn't know what kind of weapon was used.
This account from the Camp Verde Bugle, also says there were two shots. Maybe the cat was shot twice. The uncle deserves commendation for shooting straight in a tense situation. From
Suddenly everyone was yelling at Paul "not to move" and the somewhat lethargic lion placed his jaw on the boy's head and put its paw on him.

The young boy said he could not feel the teeth because they were dull, but Paul did feel the scratches from the big paw. The lion did not attack further and the boy's uncle shot at the cat. The animal became a little "wobbly" and went to a tree then moved toward Paul again and it was shot a second time. The child was scratched by the cat's paw when the lion was spooked by gunfire.
The motivation for the scratches differ from account to account. This is the only one to attribute it to action taken after the sho.

Rabid animals can take considerable damage to stop. They do not respond the same way as animals that are healthy. Mountain lion attacks often allow the victims a bit of time to access weapons.  In this case, fortunately, the uncle had time to go to his vehicle and retrieve the handgun. The cougar was probably at the end of the "rage stage", where attacks on anything are common. The next stage results in paralysis.

We do not know what caliber, make or model the handgun was.  Mountain lions do not have a reputation for requiring powerful firearms to put them down.  When they were hunted with dogs in the 1950s and 60s, many were shot with .22 rimfire cartridges out of rifles and pistols.

There is an interesting compilation of mountain lion incidents and attacks titled: Cougar Attacks & Other Incidents -2000 to date. I found it on the Internet in a read only document. It has been updated through June of 2017. The compilation lists 61 mountain lion attacks that resulted in injuries in the 16 and a half years, and at least 31 cases where attacks were thwarted by aggressive action.
While mountain lion attacks are rare, it is because mountain lions are not common, and interactions between mountain lions and humans are uncommon.
In ordinary life, people are much more likely to be attacked by another person, than by a mountain lion.

But if you are hiking in territories inhabited by mountain lions, they are a serious danger, just as is lightning, drowning, and falling.

 ©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yesterday a female neighbor called me over to shoot a rattle snake in her chicken coup. I think her chicken was already dead from snake bite. but the head of the head of the snake exploded She was talking a mile a minute and finally calmed down. Getting her to hold the light on the snake took some time. it was very dark. needed the light to make a good shot.