Big Bar, Calif. — A woman who was attacked by a mountain lion in Northern California says her dog jumped to her defense and was badly wounded in protecting her.
"I will [n]ever be able to live up to how amazing and loyal she is to me," Erin Wilson told the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday.
Wilson, 24, lives in rural Trinity County, about four hours northwest of Sacramento. On Monday, she drove to the Trinity River near unincorporated Big Bar to take an afternoon stroll with Eva, her 2 1/2-year-old Belgian Malinois.
Wilson was on a path, with Eva a few yards in front of her, when a mountain lion lunged and swiped at her, scratching Wilson's left shoulder through her jacket, she said.
"I yelled 'Eva!' and she came running," Wilson said. "And she hit that cat really hard."
The dog weighs 55 pounds and was outclassed by the cougar but battled fiercely.
"They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying," Wilson said.
The cougar bit the dog's head and wouldn't let go, even when Wilson attacked the animal with rocks, sticks and her fists and tried to choke it and gouge its eyes.
The cat tried to kick her off, scratching her with its back paws. Wilson said she ran back to her pickup truck, grabbed a tire iron and flagged down a passing car.
That driver, Sharon Houston, told the Bee that she grabbed a long length of PVC pipe and pepper spray. Together, the women began beating the lion, which had dragged the dog off the trail.
Houston finally sprayed the animal with the pepper spray and it fled, Houston said.
Wilson was treated for non-life-threatening scratches, scrapes and bruises.
Wilson's husband, Connor Kenny, told SFGATE that Eva had two skull fractures, a punctured sinus cavity and severe damage to her left eye. The dog had seizures on the drive to the vet but stabilized overnight.
"We are hopeful she will pull through this," Kenny wrote. "She's a fighter, clearly."
The dog was in guarded condition, said a statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Wildlife officers have collected samples from the wounds for DNA analysis and authorities will try to trap the cougar, the department said.
Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare but in such cases the animals usually are killed if they are caught.
Meanwhile, Wilson said she hopes Eva will recover. She has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the vet bills, and she's already planning how to thank Eva: with some new stuffed toys and a steak dinner.