NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) – A camper was attacked by mountain lion early Sunday morning in an area northwest of Nevada City, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

The 63-year-old man was driving through Nevada County on Sunday on his way to a hiking trip when he decided to camp for the night near a tributary on the Yuba River. He laid his sleeping bag on the ground, got inside and went to sleep, according to agency spokesman Patrick Foy.

At around 1 a.m., the Marin County man says a mountain lion suddenly pounced him, clawing and biting him through the sleeping bag. He said it bit through his clothes and his hat.

“It bit into his head, on his hands,” Foy said. “He said he covered his face in defensive gestures and tried to protect his head. The animal was biting and scratching into him through the sleeping bag, through his clothing for a minute.”

“He woke up from a deep sleep from this, and, startled, the lion immediately began a ferocious attack,” Foy said.

The attack lasted around two minutes before the lion backed off, then took off into the wilderness. The man was able to collect his stuff and drive himself to a hospital in Grass Valley, where he was treated and released.

“He was beaten up really, really bad,” Foy said. “He just wants to rest.”

Sunday’s incident makes just 15 reported mountain lion attacks since 1890 in California. With such little data, Fish and Game biologists say they don’t know why the lion attacked or stopped attacking.

“Trying to understand mountain lion behavior is really tricky, especially with attacks on humans,” state biologist Marc Kenyon said.

The last fatal mountain lion attack in Northern California was back in 1994 when a runner was killed along the American River trail.

That cat was captured and killed, and now Fish and Game is looking to do the same with this one.

“The lion will be killed in the interest of public safety, and also to collect forensic evidence to make sure we can connect that lion to a victim,” Foy said.

Game wardens went to the scene of the attack and found mountain lion tracks. Search dogs were sent out to search for the animal but weren’t able to find it. However, they found the remains of a domestic cat that appears to have been killed by a mountain lion.

Fish and Game doesn’t know the exact size of this cat but estimates it’s about 100 pounds. And it’ll be hard to find. An adult male lion can travel 60 miles in one day.

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