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Mountain Lion Blamed For Attacks Tested For Rabies

Could disease have caused a mountain lion to attack two mountain bikers last week at an Orange County wilderness park? Medical tests answer that question.
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Tests on the mountain lion that authorities believe killed one mountain biker and mauled another at an Orange County wilderness park show the animal did not have rabies.

State wildlife investigators conducted the tests to determine, among other things, why the animal exhibited such aggressive behavior in the attacks last week at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.

If the big cat did have rabies, it could have partially explained why it attacked the cyclists.

Anne Hjelle, 30, was rescued from the jaws of a mountain lion Thursday by a cycling partner who clung to her leg and other mountain bikers who threw rocks at the animal as it tried to drag her away. Hjelle remained listed in fair condition at a Mission Viejo hospital.

The body of Mark Reynolds, 35, later was found partially buried near his bike. Reynolds apparently had crouched down to fix a broken bicycle chain when he was attacked.

A 2-year-old, 110-pound male mountain lion was shot and killed Thursday by Orange County sheriff's deputies after it was seen near the site where Reynolds was found.

The stomach contents of the mountain lion included skin tissue and parts of a lung and liver consistent with a human and DNA tests were being conducted to see if they match Reynolds. The DNA tests will take five to seven days, said Jim Amormino, a sheriff's spokesman.

Experts estimate that there are 4,000 to 6,000 adult lions roaming California. Including Thursday's incident, there have been 13 mountain lion attacks on people in California over the last 114 years. Five of those were fatal. The last fatal attack took place in San Diego County in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in 1994.

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