A 70-Year-Old Hiker Fought Off a Mountain Lion in Utah

Wildlife officers have been unable to locate the mountain lion so far, and are urging hikers in the area to use caution.

Photo: Joanna McCarthy via Getty

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A 70-year-old hiker escaped with cuts on his arms and legs after fighting off a mountain lion in north-central Utah, the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) says.

Evan Ray Nilsen was hiking in Diamond Fork Canyon near Spanish Fork on Thursday afternoon when he says the lion leapt on him.

“A mountain lion hit me right on the side, knocked me down the hill,” Nilsen said. “I kind of hunched up or folded up, and it come down around behind me,” Nilsen told KUTV.

Nilsen responded by picking up a rock and hitting the cougar, which “took off.” Nilsen then drove himself to the hospital, where he received treatment for lacerations where the cougar had scratched him on his limbs, as well as tetanus and rabies shots. Nilsen said the mountain lion did not appear to be fully grown, and may have been a juvenile.

Officers with the DWR returned to the scene of the encounter with tracking dogs that evening in an attempt to find the mountain lion; while they found Nilsen’s dropped phone, they were unsuccessful in locating the animal. Officers returned the next day with personnel from U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, which also brought a canine team; that search yielded nothing as well.

DWR outreach manager Scott Root told the Idaho Statesman that it is “very rare for cougars to attack people” and suggested that the lion that attacked Nilsen could have been a juvenile that was less aware of humans, a mother with kittens, a “startled” lion, or one defending a kill. The first two reasons have both been implicated in human-cougar encounters in recent years: In 2020, a mountain lion chased off a runner in Utah after he came too close to her kittens, and in 2019 another trail runner in Fort Collins, Colorado strangled a juvenile mountain lion after it pounced on him.


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