Texas officials disagree on whether wild animal killed man

LIPAN, Texas (AP) — Texas wildlife officials on Sunday said there was no evidence that a mountain lion or any wild animal killed a 28-year-old man, disputing a medical examiner’s preliminary finding in the case.

“It appears we have two conflicting reports from two agencies that are experts in their field,” the Hood County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Sunday posted on Facebook.

The sheriff’s office said it will wait for the final autopsy report but that, for now, it’s standing by the preliminary finding from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office, which ruled out a suicide and a homicide. The sheriff’s office had said earlier that the autopsy’s preliminary findings said Christopher Allen Whiteley died from a wild animal attack, possibly by a mountain lion.

The sheriff’s office said its investigation is continuing and that investigators are gathering pictures and statements from locals who have seen and captured on film images of mountain lions.

The sheriff’s office had said deputies found Whiteley’s body on Thursday, a day after he went missing near Lipan, located 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Fort Worth.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in a Sunday afternoon statement that its experts had inspected the scene and didn’t find any evidence of a mountain lion attack at the location.

“None of the evidence reviewed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department indicates a predatory attack by a mountain lion or other wild animal,” TPWD spokeswoman Megan Radke said in an email.

TPWD said that a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services biologist also came to the same conclusion as its staff.

TPWD notes that fatal mountain attacks on people are extremely rare, and that over the past 100 years, there have been fewer than 30 people killed by mountain lions across the U.S. TPWD said it has no records of a confirmed fatal attack on a person by a mountain lion in Texas, and no confirmed records of a mountain lion from Hood County.

Though confirmed mountain lion sightings are rare in North Texas, TPWD on Tuesday said its biologists had verified a sighting on private property in the suburban Dallas city of Rowlett, which is more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from where Whiteley was killed.

The state wildlife officials said Sunday that the confirmed sighting in Rowlett is considered unrelated to Whiteley’s death.

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