|Wife Clubs Mountain Lion
That Attacked Husband
January 26, 2007 NBC4 TV LA
Calif. -- Wildlife officials on Thursday
credited a woman with saving her husband's
life by clubbing a mountain lion that attacked
him while the couple were hiking in a
California state park.
Jim and Nell Hamm, who will celebrate their
50th wedding anniversary next month, were hiking
in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park when the lion
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"He didn't scream. It was a different, horrible
plea for help, and I turned around, and by then
the cat had wrestled Jim to the ground," Nell Hamm
said in an interview from the hospital where her
husband was recovering from a torn scalp, puncture
wounds and other injuries.
After the attack, game wardens closed the park
about 320 miles north of San Francisco and
released hounds to track the lion.
They later shot and killed a pair of lions found
near the trail where the attack happened.
Although the Hamms are experienced hikers, neither
had seen a mountain lion before Jim Hamm was
mauled, his wife said.
Nell Hamm said she grabbed a four-inch-wide log
and beat the animal with it, but it would not
release its hold on her husband's head.
"Jim was talking to me all through this, and he
said, 'I've got a pen in my pocket and get the pen
and jab him in the eye,"' she said. "So I got the
pen and tried to put it in his eye, but it didn't
want to go in as easy as I thought it would."
When the pen bent and became useless, Nell Hamm
went back to using the log. The lion eventually
let go and, with blood on its snout, stood staring
at the woman. She screamed and waved the log until
the animal walked away.
"She saved his life, there is no doubt about it,"
said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the
Department of Fish and Game.
Nell Hamm, 65, said she was scared to leave her
dazed, bleeding husband alone, so the couple
walked a quarter-mile to a trail head, where she
gathered branches to protect them if more lions
came around. They waited until a ranger came by
and summoned help.
"My concern was to get Jim out of there," she
said. "I told him, 'Get up, get up, walk,' and he
Jim Hamm, 70, was in fair condition Thursday. He
had to have his lips stitched back together and
underwent surgery for lacerations on his head and
He told his wife he still wants to make the trip
to New Zealand they planned for their anniversary,
Nell Hamm warned people never to hike in the
backcountry alone. Park rangers told the couple if
Jim Hamm had been alone, he probably would not
"We fought harder than we ever have to save his
life, and we fought together," she said.
The Eureka Reporter newspaper reported an inmate
from the California Department of Foresty and Fire
Protection found the man bleeding around 4 p.m.
The inmate contacted authorities.
One lion was shot with a rifle Wednesday night,
the other was killed Thursday morning, said Fish
and Game Warden Rick Banko.
Their carcasses were flown to a state forensics
lab in Rancho Cordova to determine if either
animal mauled the man, he said.
Based on their weight of between 70 and 100
pounds, officials think the lions were relatively
The park is 50 miles north of Eureka in Orick.
The paper said the park is a popular recreational
area and offers hiking, nature study, wildlife
viewing, beach combing and picnicking.
In the past three years mountain lion sightings
have increased on the nearby Humboldt State
In early November, a young male mountain lion
weighing approximately 80 pounds was captured and
tranquilized on campus.
This was the 16th mountain lion attack reported in
California since 1890.
It was the first attack since three people were
injured, one of them fatally, in separate
incidents in Orange and Tulare counties in 2004,
Since 1990, the 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions
estimated to be in California have been protected
from hunting, although residents can get special
permits to shoot a lion if it is perceived as a
danger to people, pets or livestock.
Sightings of the animals have increased in the
past decade as housing has spread into their
habitat, but attacks are relatively rare since
mountain lions tend to be wary of people, said
Karen Kovaks, a senior wildlife biologist with the
Department of Fish and Game.
"For the most part, their natural inclination is
to go the other way when humans are around,"
Kovaks said. "This was atypical because this
person was with somebody. Usually they attack
someone who is alone."
The park was reopened to the public Thursday after
the second lion was killed, Banko said.