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News
3/29/2005

Mauled Cyclist's Family Drops Lawsuit

Mauled Cyclist's Family Drops Lawsuit
Parents of the O.C. man killed by a cougar in 2004 had focused on safety. Mountain bikers say they know the risks.

By Rachana Rathi
Times Staff Writer

The parents of a mountain biker who was killed by a cougar last year in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park will drop a wrongful-death lawsuit against Orange County because of numerous protests from cyclists.

Mark Reynolds, a 35-year-old Foothill Ranch resident, was mauled by a mountain lion while he crouched to fix his bicycle along Cactus Ridge Trail on Jan. 8, 2004.

Dona and Gary Reynolds of St. Joseph, Mo., had filed the lawsuit March 16, alleging that the county should have known the park was dangerous because mountain lions were present.

However, after news of the lawsuit spread last week, more than 25 messages on the Mark J. Reynolds Memorial Foundation website Friday urged the family to drop the lawsuit, saying cyclists understand the risks of biking in wilderness parks.

"Our intention was not to upset his friends, fellow bikers, biking clubs and national biking associations, biking-related com- panies, nor the trails in which the enjoyment of biking prevails," the Reynoldses said in a statement Saturday.

Grant Curtis, former president of the SHARE Mountain Bike Club, which maintains the single-track riding trails in Orange County, said the family's "lawsuit was well-intentioned, just not completely informed."

"We asked [Dona Reynolds] collectively as a group to drop the lawsuit, knowing that we understand the risks involved in the sport," Curtis said.

The afternoon of Reynolds' death, the same mountain lion attacked another bicyclist. Anne Hjelle, 30, of south Orange County was rescued by her riding companion and other trail bikers as the cougar dragged her by the head into the brush.

Later that day, sheriff's deputies shot and killed the 110-pound mountain lion responsible for the attacks.

Wildlife experts say 4,000 to 6,000 adult mountain lions live in California, including about half a dozen in the Whiting Ranch park area. Reynolds' death was the state's sixth recorded mountain lion fatality and the first since 1994. There have been 20 cougar attacks since 1986.

As a result of two attacks in 1986, rangers log cougar sightings, and signs are posted at entrances of all county parks: "Mountain lions may be present and are unpredictable. Be cautious. They have been known to attack without warning. Your safety cannot be guaranteed."