Wardens on hunt for mountain lion after suspected attack in Perris

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Investigators say a 50-year-old homeless man may have been the victim of a mountain lion attack at a makeshift encampment in Perris, Calif.

Dan Sforza with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told KPCC the man was hospitalized Saturday morning with severe injuries to his face, arms, chest, and the back of his head. 

Sforza said the man was not able to tell investigators what attacked him, but his injuries included "large gashes, scrapes that were the width and consistency of what a mountain lion paw would be like. And to my understanding, based on x-rays, there were also puncture wounds to the skull" were consistent with wounds caused by a mountain lion bite, he said.

The man, whose name was not released, is recovering in a hospital in Menifee. 

"My understanding is he's going to make it," Sforza said.

The area where the attack took place is not consistent with mountain lion's preferred habitat, Sforza said. He added that mountain lions between 18 months and 2 years old will often set off to establish their territory in a new area and find themselves searching for food. 

"Sometimes we refer to them as teenagers, because they tend to get in trouble," he said.

Attacks in California are rare; there have only been 15 confirmed since the mid 1980s. The most recent fatal attack took place in 2004, Sforza said.  

If ever you do find yourself confronted by a mountain lion, Sforza offered a few tips:

"You don't want to run. Running stimulates that predator response to chase," he said. "What you want to do is make yourself as tall as possible, throw sticks, rocks, yell, and slowly back away. Don't turn and run."

Sforza said wardens are currently scouring the area and setting traps for the mountain lion. If found, the animal would be killed immediately, as a threat to the safety of people nearby.

This story has been updated.

With contributions by The Associated Press

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