Mountain Lion Believed To Be Responsible For Attacking Boy (updated)

PHOTO BY CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
PHOTO BY CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

 

Update: Forensics confirmed this was the mountain lion that attacked the boy.

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The mountain lion attack of a young hiker in Cupertino reached what it is believed to be – by process of elimination and guesswork, hardly 100 percent certainty – a conclusion when California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers killed a mountain lion, though there’s no guarantee it was the mountain lion, that injured the 6-year-old boy who was hiking on the Picchetti Ranch Zinfandel Trail in Santa Clara County.

From the San Jose Mercury News report:

The 65-pound juvenile male mountain lion was killed with a rifle shot near the Picchetti Ranch Zinfandel Trail — just 130 yards from the attack site — late Wednesday morning after the cat displayed unusually aggressive behavior after dogs had chased it into a tree. There, it was crouching and fixating on a wildlife officer, said Lt. Patrick Foy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Lt. Patrick Foy of the Department of Fish and Wildlife gives the media an update on the search for a mountain lion near the Picchetti Winery along Montebello Rd. in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. A six-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion alongside one of the hiking trails near the winery yesterday afternoon. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) (Gary Reyes)

The fact that the un-collared mountain lion was so close to the attack site, coupled with the territorial behavior, indicated that it was a local lion and was most probably involved in the incident Sunday as opposed to one that was passing through the area, Foy added.

“Everything about (the attack) was so vastly beyond our scope, beyond any statistical reason why lions do what they do, that there is no way to explain why he attacked,” Foy said.

Foy added that while no one wanted to shoot and kill the cat, the animal’s extreme aggression while it was perched high up in a tree left the department little choice.

Here’s the CDFW’s report on the killing:

A 65-pound male mountain lion was killed with a rifle shot near the Picchetti Ranch Zinfandel Trail area this morning in an effort to protect public safety relating to a lion attack several days earlier.

Two families were hiking on a marked trail in Cupertino on Sunday, Sept. 7 when a mountain lion attacked one of the children. According to the adults in the group, the 6-year-old boy was walking only 10 feet in front of the others, when a mountain lion jumped from a hidden position and attacked him. The boy was transported to the hospital with serious but non-life threatening puncture wounds and released the next day.

Wildlife experts went to the scene of the attack and picked up the cat’s scent. After three days of investigating within a one-mile radius from the attack site, the experts and specialized tracking dogs found a cat and treed it approximately130 yards from the attack site. The cat was about 70 feet up in the tree and tranquilizing it was not a reasonable option and the fall would have killed it anyway.

The cat displayed unusually aggressive behavior while treed, crouching and fixating on a wildlife officer. The fact that it was so close to the attack site, coupled with the territorial behavior, likely indicates that this was a local lion probably involved in the incident as opposed to one that was passing through the area. CDFW’s wildlife investigation lab will be conducting a full forensics investigation, comparing evidence gathered at the attack to confirm the identity of the cat.

No one at the department wanted to destroy this animal but protecting public safety is a first and foremost priority. Relocation of mountain lions is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In this instance, the lion was not eligible because it had attacked a human. CDFW’s mountain lion policy can be found here: Human/Wildlife Interactions in California: Mountain Lion Depredation, Public Safety, and Animal Welfare. The policy is based on structured decision-making protocol that includes non-lethal and relocation options, but prioritizes public safety in the event of attacks or threats on humans.

Authorities will conduct a complete necropsy, making the rabies test a priority as well as the gathering of additional forensic information to assess the health of the cat.

An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions live in California. For information about how to stay safe when living or recreating in mountain lion territory, please visithttp://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html

 

 

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