Tests provide no clues to why cougar attacked

Boulder Daily Camera

By Elizabeth Mattern Clark

A mountain lion that wildlife officials believe attacked a 7-year-old boy at a popular Boulder hiking spot earlier this month was a healthy adult, adept at hunting its typical prey, according to results issued Tuesday.

Two sets of laboratory tests revealed no clue as to why the animal would attack a human.

And whether wildlife officials shot the right animal isn’t settled, either.

Protein tests were “inconclusive” in determining whether the cougar that officials killed was the one that attacked and injured Shir Feldman, of Rockville, Md., on April 15. Wyoming scientists took 21 samples from the animal’s claws and mouth and did not detect any human blood, according to their report.

Still, the Colorado Division of Wildlife said it’s “confident” the 84-pound animal was the one that attacked the boy because of other evidence.

The animal was seen running across a parking lot 30 yards from the attack site two hours after the encounter, said division spokesman Tyler Baskfield. It was tracked by dogs and shot another four hours later within a half-mile of where Shir was dragged from his father’s grip.

“I think what we had here was a case of the cat coming back around to check on its ‘kill,'” Baskfield said. “It’s known as fidelity, and it’s typical mountain lion behavior. I’m sure it’s possible, but it would be very rare for another mountain lion to wander that close to the kill site.”

The cougar had hours to groom itself — destroying blood evidence from the attack — before it was shot, Baskfield said.

Shir’s jaw was broken as the cougar’s mouth clamped down on his face during the attack at Artist Point, near the summit of Flagstaff Mountain. His family chased the animal and fought it off with rocks and sticks.

In a necropsy report, Colorado State University scientists said the mountain lion was a 5-year-old animal whose body was in “excellent” condition before it was shot. The cat was “doing quite well foraging” for its typical prey based on the rabbit remnants in its stomach and fat on its body, the report said.

“No specific lesions were found in this animal to give a clue on why she attacked this young boy,” the CSU report said.

Rabies tests were negative.

Officials previously said they thought the animal was younger. Juveniles are more likely to attack humans because they are less-established hunters, they said.

That it was 5 years old surprised Wendy Keefover-Ring, spokeswoman for Sinapu, a Boulder-based carnivore-protection group.

“It’s a big surprise to everyone that this is an older animal that probably had very good hunting skills,” she said. “It’s inexplicable. It’s just a rare, freak thing.”

There have been two confirmed fatal mountain lion attacks in Colorado’s history, and a third was suspected. The April 15 attack was the first requiring medical attention in Boulder County history, officials said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Elizabeth Mattern Clark at (303) 473-1351 or clarke@dailycamera.com.

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