Syracuse deer hunter survives shocking encounter with angry mountain lion
By Mitch Shaw (Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau )
Last Edit: 3 hours 35 min ago (Oct 22 2009 - 3:00am)
SLIDESHOW: See more pictures of the mountain lion
SYRACUSE -- On the first day of deer hunting season, David Garcia felt an awful lot like a deer.
It was a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted on the Oct. 17 season opener of the Utah deer hunt, as the 48-year-old Syracuse resident found himself face to face with a full-grown, 150-pound mountain lion.
Garcia, who has been an avid deer hunter since he was 13, was in New Canyon near Randolph when he encountered the female mountain lion.
It was about daybreak. Garcia had hiked to a pine-covered area and begun scouting for deer.
"I was standing there and I heard a stick break behind me," Garcia said. "I expected to see a squirrel or something, but I saw this 150-pound mountain lion staring right at me."
Garcia said the sight of the cat sent him into an immediate state of shock.
"When I saw her, it sent a chill through my spine that I can't explain. I was trembling," Garcia said.
"I didn't know whether to pass out or run or what. I thought about trying to scare her, but I thought if she calls my bluff, she's going to have me for lunch."
Garcia said he had only a few seconds to decide what to do and ultimately decided to use his rifle as a measure of self-defense.
"When I turned around, she immediately went into a crouch and started hissing like crazy," Garcia said, "so I lifted my rifle and looked through my scope and all I saw was her head -- then I just fired."
The bullet went through the mountain lion's neck, passing through the heart and exiting near its front shoulder.
Investigators from the Ogden branch of the Division of Wildlife said the mountain lion was only 9 yards from Garcia when he shot it.
"The wildlife officer said she could have made that distance in one bound," Garcia said.
Lt. Scott Davis, a conservation officer with the Ogden branch of the state Division of Wildlife, responded with other wildlife officers.
"I asked David how he was doing on the deer hunt," Davis said. "But he was pretty keyed up and told us he just killed a mountain lion."
The wildlife officers investigated and determined Garcia acted in self-defense.
"He was worried about getting arrested for shooting it," Davis said. "But we found the spent cartridge, looked at the footprints -- all the evidence indicated that he was protecting his life."
Davis said the cat may have been in attack mode to protect nearby kittens.
"This particular cat was nursing, and there is a good chance there were kittens in the area," he said. "And it's just motherly instinct to protect those kittens."
Davis said cougar sightings and attacks seem to have increased over the past few years and that people trekking into the outdoors should be prepared.
"The last thing you want to do is run," Davis said.
"Stand tall, make noise, grab sticks, rocks, do anything you can to scare it. If it does get ahold of you, do anything you can to inflict pain -- hit, kick, poke eyes, anything."
Davis said cougar sightings should be reported to the Division of Wildlife by calling county dispatch.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org