• Christopher Allen Whiteley was reported missing on Thursday after being last seen on Wednesday
  • His body was later recovered from a nearby wooded area 
  • He might have been killed by a mountain lion, preliminary findings of an autopsy indicated

A 28-year-old Texas man might have been killed by a mountain lion, said a preliminary report from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office.

Christopher Allen Whiteley, who was last seen on Wednesday morning in Lipan, was reported missing on Thursday. The search party later found his body in a nearby forested area, reported NBC News.

According to the Hood County Sheriff's Office, it is working on locating the mountain lion suspected of killing Whiteley. A governmental trapper with the United States Department of Agriculture is working with Texas Game Wardens and Deputies to locate the animal.

The authorities have also asked residents in the area to be cautious and keep their pets indoors at night until the animal responsible for Whiteley's death is found.

"The safety of Hood County Citizens is my priority but please don't interfere with the process of locating the animal and stay clear of the area being actively worked by officials," Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said.

However, Texas Wildlife officials disputed the claim. They said there was no evidence that a mountain lion or any wild animal had killed the 28-year-old man, contradicting the medical examiner's preliminary finding in the case.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) said its experts had inspected the scene but didn't find any evidence of a mountain lion attack at the location, reported ABC News.

"None of the evidence reviewed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department indicates a predatory attack by a mountain lion or other wild animal," Megan Radke, a spokesperson from TPWD said. TPWD said that a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services biologist also had the same conclusion.

Fatal mountain attacks on people are extremely rare and over the past 100 years, there have been fewer than 30 people killed by mountain lions across the U.S., said the department. So far, TPWD has no records of a confirmed fatal attack on a person by a mountain lion in Texas and no confirmed records of a mountain lion from Hood County.

However, TPWD said its biologists had verified a sighting on private property in the suburban Dallas city of Rowlett, which is more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from where Whiteley was killed.

Following the conflicting report, the sheriff's office said it would wait for the final autopsy report. "But, for now, we are standing by the preliminary finding from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office, which ruled out a suicide and a homicide," said a statement from Hood County Sheriff's Office.

Mountain lion Pixabay