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When Robert Biggs finished gazing at a cute, cuddly family of black bears and turned to continue on his day-hike in northern California on Monday, he thought he was safe.
The 69-year-old man from the town of Paradise was anything but.
He'd been watching a mother bear, her yearling and a newborn from about 40 feet away, but he had no idea that he was being stalked by a ferocious mountain lion. As he turned to leave, the cat pounced on his backpack with all four paws.
"He grabbed me from behind and knocked me to the ground," Biggs told The Huffington Post. "I was on my knees. I had my rock pick out because I was on a steep incline, and I smashed the cat in the head with it. He screamed, but he didn't let go."
His backpack and rock pick were the only things standing between him and certain death, Biggs said. He raised his weapon again for another swing at the hulking feline.
"That's when a blur on my left side grabbed the lion by its throat — turns out it was the momma bear," he said. "I heard a tremendous screeching, some growling noises."
Biggs said that the bear ripped the cat's grip from his backpack, and the two titans clashed for another 15 seconds. The bear won the battle, probably because it "outweighed the cat 400 pounds to 100 pounds." The cat ran away, and the bear went back down on all fours, humbly making eye contact with Biggs before regrouping with her young.
Biggs — who had been hiking the same two-mile trail in the Bean Soup Flat area for years — left with a few scratches and bruises on his arm. Being a mountain man, he refused his wife's pleas that he go to the hospital, and instead put some peroxide on his wounds.
He told The Huffington Post that he owes everything to that bear.
"I'm 100-percent sure it did want to save my life," he said. "We made eye contact. I'd seen the bears before and I know she knew who I was."
Mountain lion attacks in California are reportedly rare. There were only 14 verified attacks on humans between 1890 and 2007, according to the California Department of Fish and Game's website.