Park rangers: 70-year-old man fends off cougar attack with rock

Close up portrait of cougar. puma. mountain lion. panther (Puma concolor) big cat native to the Americas. (Photo by: Arterra/Philippe Clément/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A 70-year-old man used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that had attacked him while hiking, Utah park authorities said. 

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said it was contacted by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Thursday night about the elderly man from Spanish Fork being injured by a cougar in Diamond Fork Canyon. 

The unidentified man told authorities that he was hiking through some trees when a cougar jumped out and knocked him to the ground. 

The man then grabbed a rock and threw it at the lion before the animal left the area. 

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The man was able to get back to his vehicle and drive away. He ended up at a local hospital and received treatment for lacerations to his arms, hands, and left leg.

DWR conservation officers went to the scene of the incident and retrieved the man's cell phone. 

The unsuccessfully tried to find the cougar, although they spotted some of the animal's tracks. 

Signs have been placed in the area to alert other hikers. Authorities said it's very rare for cougars to attack people and is "often the result of the animal being startled, defending a kill, or a mother defending her cubs." 

The DWR has provided some safety tips when crossing paths with a mountain lion. 

Here are some tips to help prevent conflicts with cougars:

  • Do not hike or jog alone.
  • Maintain awareness in cougar country while hiking or jogging and avoid using headphones that block out your surroundings.
  • Travel in groups and keep everyone together, including children and dogs.
  • Make noise while hiking to alert cougars of your presence.
  • Leave the area if you find a dead animal, especially deer or elk, since it could be a cougar kill.
  • If you live in an area near deer habitat, do not leave children outside unattended, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • As a deterrent, install outside and motion-sensitive lighting around your property.
  • Trim vegetation and remove wood piles to reduce hiding places for wildlife.
  • Bring pets and livestock inside at night or secure them in a barn or kennel with a top.

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In the rare event that you do happen to encounter a cougar, here are some tips to help keep you safe:

  • Never run from a cougar, since that could trigger the cougar’s instincts to chase.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Pick up children and pets or keep them very close.
  • Stand up tall.
  • Do not crouch or squat.
  • Make yourself look bigger by raising and waving your arms or jacket above your head.
  • Talk firmly in a loud voice, back away slowly and leave the area.
  • Fight back if you are attacked! Protect your head and neck.
  • If you are aggressive enough, the cougar will probably flee.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.