A Northern California hunter who had mimicked the call of a distressed rabbit to attract a coyote found himself fending off a mountain lion instead, state wildlife officials said.
The hunter, who was not named, was wearing camouflage and lying face down on top of a small hill near the north shore of Mono Lake on Friday when he heard a noise behind him, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan.
Looking over his shoulder, the hunter saw the mountain lion coming toward him and quickly covered his head with his arms, Hughan said. The cougar landed on the hunter and then jumped away. The hunter grabbed his gun and fired two shots, killing the mountain lion.
"It appears the mountain lion was responding to the rabbit call and the encounter resulted in the hunter possibly being mistaken for prey by the cougar," Hughan said.
After notifying the fish and wildlife department about the incident, the hunter sought treatment at a local hospital.
He suffered minor injuries to the back of his head and was given rabies shots, Hughan said.
After an investigation, wildlife officials were able to confirm the hunter's account of how the incident unfolded and decided that he would not face charges for killing the mountain lion.
Mountain lions are not threatened or endangered in California. However, they are legally classified as "specially protected species." There are approximately 6,000 mountain lions statewide and they can be found in every county, Hughan said.
In 1990, Californians voted to prohibit the hunting of mountain lions.