A man found dead on a hiking trail in Cayucos on Saturday evening with a partially chewed hand was not killed by a mountain lion, officials say, despite a possible sighting reported by neighbors in the area that night.
The Sheriff’s Office could not immediately confirm the man’s identity or cause of death Tuesday, but an autopsy will be conducted on Wednesday, according to spokesman Tony Cipolla.
California Department of Fish & Wildlife Lt. Todd Tognazzini said that the Cayucos resident took a walk with his dog in a popular hiking trail near Gilbert Street on Saturday. When he did not return, neighbors began searching and found him dead.
According to Tognazzini, someone reported seeing a mountain lion nearby, but that was never confirmed.
Tognazzini said three fingers on one of the man’s hands had been chewed by what appeared to be a wild animal. However, he said the injuries appeared to occur after the time of death and were “highly inconsistent” with any that would be caused by a mountain lion.
He said the area is a known home to mountain lions and coyotes, but that the latter likely caused the man’s postmortem injuries.
While residents are cautioned to be alert while walking hiking trails, Tognazzini said in his 34-year career that he has only seen three deaths caused by mountain lions across California — and no serious injuries in San Luis Obispo County.