The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department disputed findings on Sunday that a missing Hood County man was killed in an apparent wild animal attack, the sheriff's office says.
Saturday, the Hood County Sheriff's Office warned residents after the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office found in a preliminary report that 28-year-old Christopher Allen Whiteley had died in a wild animal attack, possibly a mountain lion.
But Sunday, the TPWD said in a statement it did not find "any evidence of a predatory attack by a mountain lion at the location where the victim was found. A United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services trapper also evaluated the evidence and came to the same conclusion as our staff."
The Hood County Sheriff's Office said it stood by the initial report from the medical examiner, which ruled out both suicide and homicide as a possible cause of death.
On Thursday afternoon, sheriff's deputies were called to the 15000 block of Howell Road, where they were told that Whiteley had last been seen early Wednesday morning.
Deputies checked a nearby wooded area and eventually found the 28-year-old's body.
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds urged the public on Saturday to be mindful of their surroundings and keep young children and animals inside at night.
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“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," Deeds said.
According to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department map tracking confirmed reports between 2009 and 2019, mountain lions have been spotted in neighboring Parker and Somervell counties, but not in Hood County.
"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 TWPD said in the statement. "Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has no records of a confirmed fatal attack on a person by a mountain lion in Texas."
Wildlife department spokeswoman Megan Radke said Saturday their biologists do not have any record of any confirmed mountain lion sightings in Hood County.
Last month, the wildlife department confirmed a rare mountain lion appearance sighting in North Texas. The animal, thought to be a transient juvenile male, was spotted on a game camera on private property in Rowlett, more than 90 miles northeast of the attack in Hood County.
TWPD said the mountain lion sighting in Rowlett was "considered unrelated to this event."
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is aware of this tragic loss of life and has provided assistance to the sheriff’s office in evaluating the circumstances and information available," Radke said.