The man whose reported weekend mountain-lion attack in Palo Alto's Foothills Park was found "unsubstantiated" by state officials will not be charged with making a false report, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan said Thursday.
Earlier, police said the Portola Valley resident could have been fined the estimated $10,000 cost of the investigation, if it were determined he had made up his story.
But the hiker "stuck to his guns" in an interview Thursday, insisting he had been attacked, Ryan said.
After consulting with the Santa Clara County district attorney, police decided there was not a strong enough case to charge him, according to Ryan.
The man told officials Sunday he had been hiking the Los Trancos Trail Saturday afternoon when he felt something shove him from behind. He rolled down the hillside, hitting a tree trunk, then saw a mountain lion scamper away, Ryan said.
But an extensive hunt for evidence or the cat itself Sunday and Monday, as well as a forensic examination of the man's shirt by the state Department of Fish and Game, turned up nothing.
Brought back to the trail Monday, the man could not identify where the reported attack occurred, Ryan said.
Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson told the Palo Alto City Council Monday night that officers believed the report was fabricated.
"It appears there was no mountain lion," said Ryan, who dubbed the resultant search a "wild goose chase."
It was a pricey chase. The state wildlife department brought in five wardens, special cougar-sniffing dogs and a professional animal tracker in what warden Patrick Foy called an "aggressive" effort.
He called $10,000 a "reasonable estimate" of investigation costs, which include roughly 80 hours of labor plus fuel and other expenses, he said.
Foothills Park and nearby Pearson-Arastradero Preserve — where a long-distance mountain lion sighting was reported Saturday — were closed Sunday through Tuesday.
There have been only 16 confirmed mountain lion attacks in California since 1890, Foy said.