A 3-year-old boy is recovering after being attacked by a mountain lion in a California wilderness park, authorities said.
The boy suffered a bite wound to the back of his neck Monday and was treated at a hospital and then released, authorities said.
The boy and five other family members were hiking Monday afternoon in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park when the cougar grabbed the boy in its mouth and dragged him a short distance. His father threw a backpack at the animal, which let go of the child, grabbed the bag and climbed a tree, authorities said.
The Sheriff’s Department helped evacuate the park, and then got permission from state wildlife officials to kill the lion.
Landon Wright, a mountain biker, told the Orange County Register he came across the injured boy being carried by his mother, who told him to watch out for the cougar.
“She was pretty shaken up. But she was at least able to warn me,” Wright said. “She scurried off down the trail, and I was curious.”
Wright said he spotted the cougar in the tree and waited to warn other passersby because it was not readily visible from the trail. He left when armed deputies arrived, he said. He heard a gunshot as he pedaled away.
“We do not fault this magnificent creature for its instinctive behavior,” the boy’s mother said in a statement read by officials at a news conference Tuesday. She said the family intends to return to the trail.
Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park sprawls over 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) of canyons and grasslands in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.
In 2004, a mountain lion killed a lone cyclist in the park and hours later mauled another passing cyclist, who survived.
Mountain lion attacks are “extremely rare,” Capt. Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, said at the news conference.
There have been only 16 attacks recorded in California in a century, three of them fatal, Foy said.