San Francisco — 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 pounced.
"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, 65, 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 and released hounds to track the lion. They later shot and killed a pair of lions found near the trail where the attack happened.
The carcasses were flown to a state forensics lab to determine if either animal mauled the man.
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 4-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.
Jim Hamm, 70, was in fair condition Thursday.