New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
dan.williams@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JUNE 23, 2008:

SEARCH CONTINUES FOR LION THAT KILLED PINOS ALTOS MAN

PINOS ALTOS, N.M. -- New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers and U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services agents used dogs and snares this week in a continuing effort to find or catch a mountain lion that killed and apparently ate parts of a Pinos Altos man last week.

Medical investigators confirmed Monday that Robert Nawojski, 55, died from injuries sustained in a mountain lion attack near his home in a wooded area of Pinos Altos north of Silver City. Nawojski, who lived alone in a small mobile home, was believed to have been attacked by the lion late Tuesday or early Wednesday last week. Searchers found his body June 20, a day after his brother reported him missing.

It was determined that Nawojski, who according to relatives like to bathe and shave on a rock ledge about 60 yards from his house, was attacked just below that ledge. The lion then apparently dragged the body a short distance, and then ate and buried parts of it.

A Department of Game and Fish officer initially was called to the scene Thursday night when a search team looking for Nawojski found a mountain lion near the trailer home. The officer shot and wounded the lion after it would not leave the yard. After the lion ran off, the officer discovered the door to the house open, the water running, and Nawojski's false teeth on the table.

Rick Winslow, the Department's large carnivore biologist, said fatal attacks on humans by mountain lions are tragic and very uncommon. It has been decades since one occurred in New Mexico. He said such attacks typically are by young, hungry animals looking to establish their own territory.

"Attacks by wildlife may become more frequent as our growing population expands into the urban-wildland interface," Winslow said. "New Mexico has a healthy population of mountain lions and people who live around them must learn to take precautions and avoid dangerous encounters."
 
Nawojski became only the second human fatality involving a mountain lion attack in recent New Mexico history. In January 1974, an 8-year-old boy from Arroyo Seco was killed by an emaciated 47-pound female lion. The boy and his 7-year-old half brother were playing about a half-mile from their home when they were attacked by the lion. The lion was later killed by a neighbor.

Winslow estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 mountain lions in New Mexico, including a population in the Silver City - Pinos Altos area.

If you live in lion country

Here are some tips to protect yourself, your family and pets:

Watch the kids: Closely supervise children and make sure they are home before dusk and not outside before dawn.

No hiding places: Trim or remove vegetation around the house, and close off open spaces beneath porches and decks so lions won't have places to hide.

Lighting: Install outdoor lighting so you can see a lion if one is present.

No prey: Don't feed wildlife, especially deer, which are lions' favorite prey.

 

If you encounter a lion:

Don’t run! If you come across a bear or a lion, stay calm and slowly back away while continuing to face the animal and avoiding direct eye contact. Pick up small children so they don’t panic and run, which can trigger the animals’ instinct to chase.

Travel in groups: There is strength in numbers, and most bears and lions will respect that and leave the area.
 
Make yourself big: Hold out your arms and spread your jacket so the bear or lion doesn’t consider you its prey. Don’t kneel or bend over, which could trigger an attack.

Back away: If the animal has not seen you, slowly back away while making noise so it knows you are there. If it still approaches, stand tall, yell, rattle pots and pans or whistle. If you are on a trail, step off on the downhill side and give the animal room to pass.

Don’t mess with mama: Never, ever, get between a mother and her cubs or kittens.

Never offer food: Offering food to a bear is inviting it to stick around. When it’s done with your friendly offering, it may consider having you for dessert.

If you are attacked: Fight back aggressively, using anything you can reach as a weapon. Do not play dead.

 

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