Trackers hunted Tuesday for the mountain lion they say stalked and killed a jogger in the rugged Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Sacramento.
The mutilated body of Barbara Schoener, 40, was discovered Sunday in the isolated Auburn Lake Trails area of El Dorado County.
Sheriff's detectives said she had been attacked by a cougar that bit her neck and crushed her skull, then dragged the partially consumed body about 300 feet and buried it under leaves and debris. Experts said mountain lions often conceal their prey and return when they are hungry.
The Sheriff's Department, releasing preliminary autopsy results, said in a written statement that Schoener apparently was running along the trail when the lion jumped onto the path about 20 feet behind her and attacked her from the rear.
The force of the animal's assault knocked her off the path down a steep slope. She struggled to her feet, was attacked, then moved farther down the slope "to a location where the final attack occurred," the sheriff's report said.
Investigators said the 120-pound, 5-foot-8 Schoener tried to fight off the animal. "Defensive wounds on Barbara's forearms and hands make it apparent she did struggle with the lion," the sheriff's report said.
A lion's prints were identified on and near the path.
State experts said Schoener is believed to be the first person this century killed in California in a mountain lion attack. In 1909, a woman and child in Santa Clara County were attacked and died later from rabies.
Mountain lion trackers using dogs sealed off a 4,200-acre portion of the recreational area to hunt for the cougar. They planned to kill the animal to prevent further attacks on humans, said Pete Weisser, a spokesman for the state Fish and Game Department.
"The (lion's) behavior is likely to be repeated," Weisser said. "We are still tracking. We are still looking. When we find it, we'll shoot it."