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By Velonews Interactive
The mountain biker killed by a mountain lion Thursday in in the Orange County foothills was a former employee of Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Mark Reynolds, 35, worked for CTS from May 2001 through August 2002 before moving to California to work as an account executive with OMS Sports in Anaheim, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
In interviews with the Gazette and the Los Angeles Times, friends and co-workers described Reynolds as a committed athlete who raced both bicycles and motocross, and Chris Carmichael was no exception.
Recalling spotting bike tracks in about six inches of snow one day, Carmichael told the Gazette, “I remember thinking, ‘What guy is riding his bike on this day?’ At the bottom of the canyon I looked up, and it was Mark.”
OMS President Fred Bramblett, meanwhile, told the Times that he was “numb.”
“I can’t begin to tell you the amount of grief and pain our company and clients are suffering right now,” Bramblett said. “This is so unreal. Mark was a very loyal, very hard-working employee here at OMS Sports and will be sorely missed by all of those he came across. Such a tragic, tragic event.”
The attack on Reynolds was the sixth fatal mauling of a human by a mountain lion in California and the first since 1994, according to the Times.
Deputies said Thursday night that they shot and killed the 110-pound mountain lion responsible for the attacks, but on Friday they weren’t taking any chances. For now, they will shoot to kill any mountain lion they encounter near the trail, Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino told the newspaper.
Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, will remain closed indefinitely.
By Friday morning, investigators told the Times, they believed they knew how the attack unfolded. About noon Thursday, the chain broke on Reynolds’ bike, putting the Foothill Ranch cyclist near a stalking mountain lion. Authorities said Friday that when Reynolds crouched to fix his bike, he assumed a posture that probably spurred the lion to attack.
The lion dragged him off the trail, and Reynolds’ body went undetected until late Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Thursday afternoon, the cougar, protective of its now partially buried prey, mauled another passing biker. Anne Hjelle, 30, of south Orange County was rescued by her riding companion and other trail bikers as she was being dragged by the head into the brush. She remains hospitalized in serious condition.
Wildlife experts estimate that there are 4,000 to 6,000 adult mountain lions in California, including about half a dozen in the Whiting Ranch park area. Attacks, though, are rare. Reynolds is the first fatality in Orange County.
“Often [cougars] are reclusive and don’t want to be seen,” Doug Updike, a senior wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, explained to the Times. “It’s very abnormal behavior. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning” than attacked by a mountain lion.
Updike pointed out, though, that Reynolds was alone when he was attacked, as are nearly all victims of cougar maulings. And he was probably crouching – a posture, he said, that can convey weakness to a stalking cat.
Mountain-lion experts say that while the animals generally stay away from humans, they are more likely to attack small prey, such as a person in a crouched position. To a cougar, the difference between a person bent over fixing a bicycle and a small animal may be indistinguishable.
And wildlife experts say that increased development in wild areas has made such incidents more likely. “You have more people living and recreating in lion habitat,” Updike said. –Factiva, The Los Angeles Times and Colorado Springs Gazette contributed to this report.