The mountain lion will be killed when caught, say the authorities.
San Francisco — In yet another incident showing conflict between human settlements and animal habitats in the United States, a 6-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion Sunday afternoon on a hiking trail near a winery in Cupertino, authorities said. The boy was admitted to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre where the doctors observed he had suffered non-life-threatening injuries, sheriff’s deputies said. Valley Medical Centre spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said the boy was in a serious condition but was upgraded to fair condition Sunday evening. On Monday, he was released. The boy’s name has not been made public.
The attack was reported around 1 pm on Montebello Road, a hiking trail near Pichetti Winery. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and deputies are searching for the animal.
A game warden, Travis Jarrett, said the boy’s parents had to fight off the puma. “The cat did make contact with the boy, did end up taking him into a brushy area, his parents did fight the animal off,” he said. “He suffered enough injuries to the point that he was needing (sic) immediate medical attention. He had to be immediately hospitalised.” The boy’s father told investigators his son was about 10 feet ahead of the group when a mountain lion “came out of nowhere” and attacked the boy.
The warden said a federal trapper was en route to ensure the cougar didn’t pose a threat to other humans. Officials said the boy was hiking with his family when the mountain lion attacked from behind. California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt Patrick Foy said a new team of tracking dogs would take over Monday evening after the search was halted earlier because a previous team of dogs became exhausted while scouring rugged terrain in humid conditions for the big cat.
Shawn Ardaiz, who was visiting from San Francisco, said he saw the boy being brought up the trail with what looked like “lacerations” on his neck. “The man came down the trail carrying his son, it looked like he had lacerations on the back of his neck… He was bleeding pretty heavily,” he said. “Originally, I thought he had fallen off some rocks, but afterwards we heard a mountain lion attacked.”
Ardaiz called the attack “a little shocking.” “You don’t hear about this very often; it’s a very weird thing, especially in the middle of the day like that,” he said.
Authorities have closed hiking trails in the area and established a perimeter. They are asking the public to avoid the area. Santa Clara County Chief Park Ranger Matt Anderson said mountain lion attacks are very rare. “Generally speaking they will not attack; they will run from you,” he said. “I am not sure what the provocation was in this case.” State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said the mountain lion attack was an isolated incident.
Reports on the nature of the predator are mutually conflicting. Foy indicated that the mountain lion had turned into a maneater. He said the animal attacked in a manner similar to the way it would a group of deer by targeting the easiest prey, usually the smallest member. The lion dragged the boy into some brush before being scared away by his father and another hiker, he said.
Four federal tracking dogs were brought in to find the mountain lion. After calling off Sunday’s search at dusk, the team spent overnight at the site of the attack hoping the lion would return. Authorities opted for a smaller search crew to increase its probability of tracking down the animal though fresh scents and prints, Foy said.
“We’ve intentionally minimised the team to eliminate any scent and track contamination in order to find this animal who we believe is a threat to public safety,” Foy said. “We will be here for as long as it takes.”
“The animal will be euthanised and tested for general things including rabies, which is found in mountain lions on occasion,” Donald Kelly of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.