Wildlife officers are investigating a reported mountain lion attack in Northern California that left a woman's dog fighting for its life after it attempted to defend its owner.
The incident took place Monday afternoon near Big Bar, where the woman took her Belgian Malinois for a walk on a trail near a picnic area, according to wildlife officers.
The reported attack unfolded when the mountain lion swiped at the woman's left shoulder, wounding her and causing her to scream. The dog then returned and came to her defense against the animal, wildlife officers said.
"The mountain lion bit the dog's head and would not let go," California Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement division Capt. Patrick Foy said in a statement. "The woman attempted to throw rocks, tug and pull them apart. [She] even attempted to gouge the eyes out of the lion, to no avail."
Seeking help, the woman ran back to the road where she left her vehicle and flagged down a passerby for assistance, wildlife officers said. Spraying the mountain lion in the face with pepper spray did not stop the attack, they added.
The animal then proceeded to drag the woman's dog off to a different location, wildlife officers said. The woman and passerby were finally able to release the dog from the mountain lion's grip by repeatedly hitting it with a PVC pipe they found in the area.
Wildlife officials collected samples at the scene for analysis, which are being processed at a lab.
"Initial evidence from the investigation is strong enough to allow wildlife officers to treat the investigation as a legitimate attack," Foy said.
The woman drove herself to receive medical treatment for non-life threatening injuries, including bite wounds, scratches and abrasions. The dog's condition has been described as "guarded" and it remains unknown if she will survive, wildlife officials said.