Mountain Lion
Biggs claims he was attacked by a mountain lion and saved by a bear. REUTERS/Howard Yanes

It's hard to know whether to cry lion or wolf on this one: If we are to believe California hiker Robert Biggs, the 69-year-old outdoorsman was attacked by a mountain lion on Monday and miraculously saved by a local bear - a bear whose cub he had recently played patty-cake with.

The California Department of Fish and Games says it cannot verify Robert Biggs tale, but the man is sticking by his story.

According to the local paper Paradise Post, Biggs often hikes in the Bean Soup Flat area, about a mile-and-a-half above Whisky Flat, looking for gold. He came across a mother bear and her cub and was watching them when the mountain lion pounced on him, grabbing hold of his backpack with all four paws.

They usually grab hold of your head with all four paws, but my backpack was up above my head and [the mountain lion] grabbed it instead, Biggs said. It must have been stalking the little bear, but it was on me in seconds.

Biggs said he wrestled with the cat and struck it with a rock pick before the mother bear came from behind and tackled the cat. What happened next has made several officials understandably skeptical.

The bear and cat dueled until they each ran off in separate directions leaving Biggs with bites, scratches, and bruises, but, all things considered, relatively unharmed.

Biggs is sure that the bear that saved him is the same bear he's seen before - the bear whose cub stood up on its hind legs and put its paws up so he could play patty-cake with it.

The Fish and Game officers claim they found no physical evidence to substantiate an attack on the clothes or any injury consistent with a lion attack. Blood found on Biggs' backpack was sent to the Fish and Game Wildlife Investigation Laboratory for testing, but the department is not pursuing any lions injured with a pick.

Department spokesman Patrick Foy noted that Biggs claims to have survived mountain lion attacks three times in his life, though there are no reports to back this up. Biggs declined to go to the hospital after his latest attack, even though his wife Suzanne claimed there were puncture wounds and skin was hanging off. Instead, he said he's been pouring hydrogen peroxide on his arm.

Foy noted that there have been just 16 verified mountain lion attacks from 1890 to 2007, none of which occurred in the area where Biggs claims he was struck.

The avid outdoorsman, however, is undeterred by the Fish and Game Department's skepticism, calling them the Gestapo.