A young man's irresponsible bravado nearly cost a young girl her life Saturday afternoon.
The 16-year-old girl was mauled by a cougar and rushed to the hospital after she and 21-year-old Anthony Zitnick illegally entered a wildlife collector's home about 1:30 p.m. Neighbors believe Zitnick was trying to impress the younger girl.
Alan Rigerman, who legally keeps two cougars and several snakes, tortoises and alligators at his North Miami-Dade home, was out for the weekend at a reptile show in Central Florida.
Wildlife officials said the retired Miami-Dade school science teacher had permits for the animals.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Eddy Ballester said the girl sustained some significant wounds that warranted taking her to a local hospital.
Miami-Dade police arrested Zitnick for his unauthorized entry into the Rigerman's home. Neighbors said paramedics also treated Zitnick, who was in shock after Chaos, a 150-pound male cougar, attacked the girl he brought inside the home.
Dried blood covered Rigerman's concrete floor at the spot where the 4-year-old cougar pounced on the girl and clenched his jaws around her head.
Richard Miralles, a neighbor familiar with Rigerman's large cats, heard the girl's piercing scream from next door.
'I heard her scream, `I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die,' '' he said, hours after paramedics had left.
Miralles said he immediately dropped what he was doing, jumped his six-foot fence, and barged into Rigerman's back room -- only to find the girl pinned beneath Chaos, her head in his mouth and his large declawed paw on her face. Zitnick was standing nearby in shock, Miralles said.