A medical examiner determined, in preliminary findings, that Christopher Allen Whiteley, 28, was “attacked by a wild animal, possibly a mountain lion,” according to a news release from the Hood County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday.
Deputies said they responded to an area in Lipan, located about 80 miles west of Dallas, in reference to a missing person call. Whiteley, who was last seen in the early morning hours on Wednesday, was found dead in a wooded area nearby.
“The safety of Hood County Citizens are my priority one, but please don’t interfere with the process of locating the animal and stay clear of the area being actively worked by officials,” wrote public information officer, Lt. Johnny Rose.
However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on Sunday said it found no evidence of a “predatory attack by a mountain lion at the location where the victim was found,” according to a separate news release by the department.
The agency added that Texas Game Wardens, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists, and a Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services trapper also conducted an inspection of the scene, and came to the same conclusion as TPWD staff.
“Fatal mountain lion attacks on people are extremely rare. In the past 100 years, there are fewer than 30 confirmed deaths due to mountain lion attacks nationwide,” the agency wrote. “Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has no records of a confirmed fatal attack on a person by a mountain lion in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife also has no confirmed records of a mountain lion from Hood County.”
The TPWD said a recent mountain lion sighting in Dallas County, about 100 miles away, was considered to be “unrelated to this event.”
The Hood County Sheriff’s Office wrote that while it appears they have two conflicting reports from two agencies that are experts in their field, the department said it is standing by the preliminary findings of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, “that rule out a suicide and a homicide on the death in question.”
Prior to the final autopsy report, the department said it will continue to gather pictures and statements from locals who saw or captured images of mountain lions.
“Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds always airs (errs) on the side of caution when it comes to the safety and well-being of the citizens of Hood County and will continue to alert them of any safety issue that may affect them,” the department added.