Brothers tried to fight off mountain lion during fatal attack in Northern California, family says

GEORGETOWN, Calif. (AP) — Two brothers who were attacked, one fatally, by a mountain lion in Northern California over the weekend tried to scare the cougar away once they realized it was stalking them, and then fought with the animal after it pounced, according to a family statement Monday.

Taylen Robert Claude Brooks, 21, was killed Saturday in a remote area northeast of Sacramento in the first fatal encounter with a mountain lion in the state in two decades. His 18-year-old brother, Wyatt Jay Charles Brooks, survived and is expected to recover after multiple surgeries.

“We are all devastated by the tragic loss of Taylen yet thankful Wyatt is still with us and are well-aware the outcome could have been even worse,” the family statement said. “These two young men being as close as any two brothers could be, lived a full energetic life enjoying the outdoors.”

The brothers from rural Mount Aukum were hunting for shed antlers Saturday afternoon near Georgetown, a historic town about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of the state capital. They had hunted and fished together almost daily.

They were walking along the edge of a dirt road around 1 p.m. when they noticed the mountain lion. As they were taught, the brothers raised their hands in the air to appear larger, shouted and threw a backpack at the lion in an attempt to scare it away, the family statement said.

Instead of retreating, the cougar charged and took the younger brother to the ground by his face.

“While Taylen beat on and yelled at the lion, Wyatt was able to wrestle the lion to the ground with him on top of the lion. The lion began clawing at Wyatt’s midsection causing Wyatt to release his grip. At that point, the lion released Wyatt, got up and charged Taylen, biting Taylen in the throat and taking Taylen to the ground,” the statement said.

His face severely lacerated, Wyatt Brooks continued to beat on the big cat in a futile attempt to get it to release his brother. Eventually he ran back toward their car to find cell service and call 911.

Taylen Brooks died at the scene. His brother is home recuperating after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his face and neck, the family said.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife said its wardens found the cougar and euthanized it. Mountain lions have attacked humans previously, but the last fatal encounter was in 2004 in Orange County, according to a verified list kept by the agency.

Last month, a woman in Washington state was riding her bike on a trail with a group of friends when she was attacked by a mountain lion. The woman and her friends were able to fight the animal off, but she suffered injuries to her face and neck.

Taylen Brooks worked with his father, Aaron, painting houses and cutting firewood. A talented guitar player, he also enjoyed fishing and was remembered as a “very kind and gentle soul.”

Wyatt Brooks has been in a fire academy since September, hoping ultimately to be hired by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. His family described him as an avid baseball player and a bow-hunting enthusiast.

“A brother is a friend given by nature,” the family wrote in their statement. “These two brothers were driven by nature.”

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