Lion vs. dog: Bloodhounds search after reported attack |

Lion vs. dog: Bloodhounds search after reported attack

Amanda Fehd

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Kingsbury resident Patrick Somma keeps a watchful eye on his dog Duke after he was attacked by what authorities think was a young male mountain lion. Duke sustained an injury to his upper right leg which required stitches.

Authorities are monitoring the Kingsbury Grade area after what they suspect was a mountain-lion attack on a dog last week.

Tom Kilby, a wildlife specialist for Nevada Wildlife Services, has been out with bloodhounds tracking the lion, which he thinks is a small male. He has found scat, large paw prints and scratchings on the earth like a cat will make to cover its droppings.

Wildlife Services is an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that traps wild animals that pose a threat to humans or livestock, and protects endangered species.

Since mountain lions can cover a range of 150 square miles, it is unclear if this one is still in the area. If found, the lion could be relocated or killed.

“In (Kilby’s) opinion, that lion’s probably left the area and will not return,” said Kevin Lansford, district supervisor of wildlife services in Eastern Nevada. Western Nevada officials were not available.

The signs Kilby found were not fresh, but he will monitor the area for the next week until he’s certain the cat has left, Lansford said.

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What happened

Patrick Somma’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, a tall, 75-pound dog named Duke, picked up a scent and ran into the woods on a walk last week. Somma ran after his dog and heard a loud yelp. He had his personal gun pulled and saw a gray, scruffy animal in retreat 100 feet away from him.

“It just looked at me with the strangest look I’d ever seen,” Somma said, “It looked like an old man. … We looked at each other to say, ‘It’s over.’ But you could see Duke was devastated.”

Somma at first had no idea what it was, suspecting a large coyote or wolf. But it had an oddly shaped head and the body was very large, about 90 pounds.

The animal was gone before he could take the safety latch off the gun.

Duke received a swipe to his leg that tore the skin open and exposed his muscle, Somma said.

“A second swipe probably would have killed him,” Somma said.

He quickly loaded up Duke and took him to the vet.

Miraculously, a mobile animal hospital was blocking the road on his way out and the vet went right to work. Within eight minutes of being attacked, the vet was patching up Duke with 20 stitches.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bread in Africa to hunt lions, Somma said. But they don’t kill them, they tree them.

It’s unclear who was hunting who that day. Lansford said a young mountain lion may have been startled by the dog and just took a swipe at him, or its hunting instincts could have been triggered by the running dog.

Kilby has been informing residents in the area on what to do and what not to do.

Nevada has a healthy and stable mountain lion population, Lansford said, but they are very elusive and prefer deer as food. He could not give a roundabout number for the population.

One thing is clear: this is not the first cat to pass through the area, he said, but they usually don’t cause any incidents.

There have been around 10 mountain lion incidents involving animal and human attacks in the last decade in Nevada, Lansford said.

Mountain lions: what to do, what not to do

— Never feed the wildlife. If you attract deer to your property, you’ll attract their predators as well.

— Travel in groups. Do not let children run ahead on a trail.

— Do not ever run from a lion or you may trigger its predator instincts. If a lion knows you have seen it, you are usually safe. They prefer to take prey by surprise.

— Make yourself look big, do not challenge it and slowly back away. You can throw rocks at it or yell at it to try to scare it off. But don’t try to stare it down or make low growling noises, or it might perceive that as a challenge.