Baited traps have been set to catch a mountain lion that apparently attacked a homeless man in Perris early Saturday, according to wildlife officials.
A 50-year-old homeless man was taken to the hospital about 8 a.m. Saturday with lacerations, puncture wounds and bite marks at the base of his skull, injuries consistent with a mountain lion attack, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Law enforcement officers and biologists scoured the area but were unable to locate the animal. The department does not have the capabilities to track the animal but at least two baited traps have been set, said CDFW Lt. Patrick Foy.
The lion will be killed in the interest of public safety if it is found, he said. Forensic evidence will also be collected to match it to the victim, if possible.
This is the first such incident to happen in the Perris area, and attacks on humans are “very, very rare,” Foy said.
The man, who may have been attacked several hours earlier, walked from a homeless encampment near Highway 74 west of the 215 Freeway to the nearest residence to call 911, Foy said. Officials are still waiting to interview the victim, who had surgery Saturday night and is in unknown condition.
This would be the 15th verified lion attack on humans in California since 1986 if the incident is confirmed, the department said. The last fatal attack was in January 2004 at Whiting Ranch Regional Park in Orange County. In July 2012, a 63-year-old man survived a lion attack in Nevada County.
“The first priority of any law enforcement agency is the safety of the public, and we are doing everything we can to find and capture this animal before it can harm anyone else,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Dan Sforza in a statement.
Area residents should be aware and keep their pets inside, the department said.
“The first recommendation is keep kids safe and close. We do have a lion that potentially just attacked a person on the loose,” Foy said.
Anyone who encounters a mountain lion should not run but face the animal, make noise and look bigger by waving his or her arms, according to department recommendations. Those living in areas with mountain lions should not bike, jog or hike alone or at times when the animals are active – dawn, dusk and at night. If a mountain lion attacks, immediately call 911.
Mountain lions cannot be relocated because they cause deadly conflicts with other lions already in the area or the relocated lion returns, according to the department.