By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(LIPAN, Texas) — Officials in Texas are now unsure about whether a mountain lion is responsible for the death of a 28-year-old man.
Deputies from the Hood County Sheriff’s Office began searching for Lipan resident Christopher Allen Whiteley on Thursday after he was last seen the day before in the early morning hours, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office on Saturday.
The investigators searched a wooded area nearby and found Whiteley’s dead body, according to the sheriff’s office, which blamed his death on a mountain lion after the preliminary results from an autopsy body determined that he died from a wild animal attack.
The sheriff’s office then enlisted the help of a trapper from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who specializes in tracking and removing mountain lions to assist in the search for the animal.
However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cast doubt on whether Whiteley was attacked by a mountain lion.
“There is not any evidence of a predatory attack by a mountain lion at the location where the victim was found,” the department said in a news release on Sunday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services trapper who surveyed the scene came to the same conclusion, the release stated.
There have been no confirmed fatal attacks by mountain lions in the state of Texas, according to the department. A recent confirmed sighting of a mountain lion was about 100 miles away in Dallas County.
“Fatal mountain lion attacks on people are extremely rare,” according to the news release. “In the past 100 years, there are fewer than 30 confirmed deaths due to mountain lion attacks nationwide.”
The Hood County Sheriff’s Office is standing behind the preliminary findings from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which ruled out a suicide or homicide, Public Information Officer Lt. Johnny Rose said in a statement.
“It appears we have two conflicting reports from two agencies that are experts in their field,” Rose said.
The sheriff’s office is also continuing to gather photos and statements from residents who have spotted mountain lions in the area as part of the investigation.
Residents have been urged to be mindful of their surroundings and to keep young children and animals inside at night. Hood County Sheriff Roger Deed also advised residents to not interfere with the process of locating the animal.
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