A mechanic in Palmdale, California got the shock of his life when a 75-pound mountain lion pounced on him early Friday morning. According to Hank Barkefelt of LJ Automotive, he was working when the large cat jumped on him, knocked him down, and ran off.
“I just opened up the shop like I do every morning, and she came out from a little cubby hole we have back there and just stumped me against the wall and took off,” Barkefelt told ABC 7. “She wasn’t aggressive at all, no teeth, no nothing. You hear about this, but you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
Experts have no explanation for why the cougar jumped on Barkefelt without attacking, but it may simply be that the animal was frightened and unfamiliar with an urban environment. Shortly after the mechanic contacted officials, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office and officers from Fish and Wildlife tracked the cat down to a nearby vehicle. Officers were able to successfully capture the animal with a tranquilizer dart. It is believed that the mountain lion was slowly making its way back home, but officers decided to capture it since travel across a moving highway—which the lion needed to cross—was too dangerous for both the animal and motorists.
“She just found herself in a bad place at a bad time,” state wildlife patrol Lt. Marty Wall told KTLA.
“In general, a healthy mountain lion that isn’t cornered or injured doesn’t represent a huge risk to people as long as they steer clear of it,” Wall added.
Officials said they intend to release the mountain lion into the Angeles National Forest once it recovers from the effects of the tranquilizer.
You can watch an interview with Barkefelt and footage of the big cat’s capture below: