A Hiker Says He Was Attacked by a Cougar. Officials Say It Never Happened

by Tommy Grant

Investigators with Canada Parks were unable to find any evidence of a mountain lion in the area

A Canadian man in a hospital bed.

Spencer Weilermann shared these two photos with reporters in February while recovering from the alleged cougar attack that he said nearly cost him his life. Photographs via YouTube

It’s been almost a month since a hiker from Calgary single-handedly fought off a mountain lion that attacked him on a trail in Banff National Park. Spencer Weilermann, 23, spoke with several news outlets about the terrifying ordeal, detailing how he grabbed the attacking cougar off his back, punching and kicking it until it ran off into the bushes. Weilermann said he was lucky to be alive, and he even described the pungent smell of the animal that tried to kill him that day. The only problem with Weilermann’s story, according to investigators with Parks Canada, is that the attack never actually happened.

In a statement they shared with Rocky Mountain Outlook on Thursday, officials said they closed their investigation into the alleged attack and that the lack of evidence they found was conclusive. Not only were investigators unable to find any tracks or cougar sign, they also found no cougar DNA at the scene or in the samples they collected.        

“Following standard protocol, Parks Canada thoroughly searched the area of the reported incident and found no signs of cougar activity,” officials said. “Parks Canada has now received the lab-tested DNA results, indicating that cougar DNA was not found on the samples that were collected.”

The alleged attack took place on Feb. 12 inside Banff National Park. Speaking with CTV News three days later, Weilermann said he was hiking alone on the Rockbound Lake Trail when he stepped off the trail to urinate around 11 a.m. That’s when he claimed the cougar jumped on his back from behind.

“I just grabbed as much hair as I could, chucked it off my shoulder and kind of did like a front flip, and we tumbled down this hill,” Weilermann said. “It was just pure adrenaline. I wasn’t thinking. It was just an immediate reaction to get whatever this is off of me.”

Weilermann said the two tumbled more than 60 feet down a hill, where he hit his head on a tree or log and briefly lost consciousness. He said he remembered “coming to” while still holding onto the mountain lion and “just punching for [his] life” until the lion gave up and fled. The 23-year-old then hiked back to the trailhead, where he called 911 and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

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Parks Canada responded to the reported attack like the agency would with any other reported animal attack. They closed the area to the public and launched a deeper investigation when wildlife officials tried but failed to find the cougar. After re-opening the trail on Feb. 21, officials concluded that the attack Weilermann so vividly described never occurred.

It’s unclear why Weilermann would fabricate such a story, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But judging from the interviews he gave last month, he appears to have been either fully convinced of the attack or fully committed to making it up. It’s also possible that he was attacked by some other animal and misreported it as a cougar.

A Canadian man recovers in a hospital after claiming he was attacked by a cougar; a 9-year-old cougar attack victim in Washington State.

Photographs that Weilermann shared with CTV News show him recovering in a hospital bed with minor scratches on the side of his face. And while it’s unclear if investigators considered these photos as evidence, they’re not exactly indicative of a near-death cougar attack — especially when compared to the gruesome facial injuries that a 9-year-old girl received when she was brutally attacked by a cougar in eastern Washington in 2022.

“It could have gone a thousand ways,” Weilermann told the Calgary Herald three weeks before his story was debunked. “I’m glad it ended with me just being safe and OK.”

This is not the first time that Weilermann has appeared in the news. In December, he spoke with CBC News about how he was coping with the sudden death of his 20-month-old son.

“We are not really too sure what happened,” Weilermann said. “Unfortunately I found him there, and did CPR, and we took him to hospital and he just unfortunately … stopped breathing.”

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