An afternoon hike in Northern California turns into a threatening-life situation when a mountain lion attacks a woman and her two ½-year old Belgian Malinois Eva.
On May 16, 2022, Erin Wilson parked at a roadside picnic area and headed down a trail to access the Trinity River with Eva slightly ahead of her.
Wilson noticed movement alongside her and heard a mountain lion growling as it swiped her across her left shoulder. Wilson screamed and shouted for Eva, who came to investigate her owner’s call for help.
The Belgian Malinois is an intelligent working breed. Agile with a lot of drive, the Malinois is a popular choice in law enforcement, the military, and individuals competing in sport work.
Wilson describes the breed as “a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine. They’re just driven dogs, a little crazy. If they don’t have something to do, they will destroy their environment” by chewing or digging.
Hearing Wilson’s cry for help, Eva’s instincts kicked in to protect her owner, and Eva fearlessly engaged the mountain lion.
The mountain lion clamped down on Eva’s neck and head, and the 55-pound dog was in trouble.
Capt. Patrick Foy, a game warden with California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, “If you take a really close look at the anatomy of a lion’s skull, it is incredibly well adapted to create significant crushing power,” Foy said. “That is how they kill their prey. They typically would grasp onto the head or neck and simply crush that prey animal to death.
That is precisely what was happening to Eva, the Belgian Malinois.
After the initial shock of being attacked by a mountain lion, Wilson started throwing rocks to get the cat to drop the dog.
“My fight mode kicked in, and I started picking up rocks, and I was bashing in its skull as hard as I could,” said Wilson, an avid outdoorswoman who once lived in Alaska. “I didn’t even feel it at the time. I knew to choke it, go for its eyes, hurt it.”
Wilson’s 115-pound frame was no match for the mountain lion. Wilson scrambled back up the trail to her truck in the parking lot. Wilson grabbed a crowbar and managed to flag down and convince a passing motorist, Sharon Houston, for help.
Houston said Wilson was mad and terrified at the same time and told her, “a mountain lion had just attacked her dog, and she wanted to know if I had a weapon–which I didn’t other than a small can of pepper spray.”
Houston grabbed a PVC pipe and her pepper spray and followed Wilson down a trail. The mountain lion had dragged Eva into some bushes and had her by the throat.
Houston stated that Wilson started hitting the lion with the crowbar and screaming. “She was very determined to stop this mountain lion from attacking her dog, so I couldn’t leave her.”
Houston also began to strike the mountain lion, and in response to the women’s attack, the mountain lion let go of Eva, bared its teeth, and swiped at the two women.
Per Houston, “I opened up my pepper spray and just hosed its face. It was the longest, 5 to 10 seconds. I begged, please work, please work, please work.”
The mountain lion retreated a little before turning towards the river. Eva and the two women went in the opposite direction back up the trail.
Wilson scooped Eva into her truck and began an hour-long drive down a twisty mountain road to get to a veterinarian. Wilson began to speed and pass cars when Eva started convulsing.
Eva’s skull and jaw were fractured, and her eye was swollen shut. She spent almost a week recovering at a veterinary clinic. She did not need surgery but might lose sight in her left eye.
Wilson received medical treatment in Redding with injuries consisting of scratches, bruises, and abrasions.
Wilson set up a GoFundMe to cover the vet bills. The Sacramento Bee picked up the story, and soon donations started pouring in, far exceeding what Wilson and her husband needed to cover the costs of Eva’s recovery.
Eva came home to a new doggie bed and new stuffed animals, which Wilson says she’ll probably rip apart as soon as her jaw is healed.
“I’m kind of blaming myself a bit about all this. Because of her, I’m unharmed, and because of me, she has two fractures in her skull, and she might be blind,” Wilson said, explaining that she’s still grappling with what might have happened to her beloved companion.
“I knew Eva was capable of being fierce and protective. I just didn’t ever think that she would have to answer the call like that. Just really hug your dogs, people. Hug your pets, hug your family.”
Fish and Wildlife staff swabbed Wilson and Eva’s wounds for saliva samples, which confirmed that it was a mountain lion attack, Foy said. Game wardens and partners are working to trap the animal.