PINOS ALTOS, N.M. – Medical investigators have confirmed that a mountain lion was responsible for the death of a man who had been reported missing.
Relatives of Robert Nawojski, 55, said he liked to bathe and shave on a rock ledge about 60 yards from his home. The state Department of Game and Fish determined the lion attacked Nawojski just below the ledge, dragged his body a short distance and then ate and buried parts of it.
Searchers called the department Thursday night after encountering a mountain lion while searching for Nawojski, whose brother reported him missing earlier that day. The brother said he had last been seen on June 17.
A game officer who spotted the lion shot and wounded it.
Game and Fish officers and federal Wildlife Services agents continued searching for the animal Tuesday.
Rick Winslow, a Game and Fish large carnivore biologist, said it's rare for a mountain lion to kill a human. The last reported human killing by a lion in New Mexico was in 1974 when an 8-year-old Arroyo Seco boy was killed by a 47-pound female mountain lion.
Winslow estimated New Mexico has between 2,000 and 3,000 mountain lions, including a population in the Silver City and Pinos Altos areas.
"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."