The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed testing on the carcass of a mountain lion killed at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Orange County on Jan. 20, and has determined that the animal was the same one that injured a small child earlier that day.
On Monday, Jan. 20, in the late afternoon, officers responded to the park following reports of a three-year-old boy being attacked and injured by a mountain lion. After the animal reportedly grabbed the child by the neck, the boy’s father charged at it while shouting. The lion released the boy and assumed an aggressive posture. The father then threw a backpack at the animal. The lion then climbed a nearby tree, carrying the backpack in its mouth.
Before wildlife officers could reach the park, Orange County sheriff’s personnel and Orange County park rangers located the lion thought responsible for the attack. After consultation with CDFW, a sheriff’s deputy then killed the animal, since it was a clear threat to public safety.
The mountain lion was taken to the CDFW Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Sacramento for DNA testing. After comparing DNA on the victim’s clothing to DNA taken from the animal carcass, wildlife forensic specialists confirmed the young 55 pound female lion killed in the park is the same lion that was involved in the attack.
A news conference was held Tuesday afternoon, at which the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Parks and CDFW were present. CDFW Captain Patrick Foy praised the father of the young victim for how he responded in protecting his son. The boy was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and was able to return home the same day.
Foy said CDFW estimates there are between four and six thousand mountain lions in California. Typically, lions avoid contact with humans, and attacks on humans are extremely rare. However, when a lion attack is confirmed, public safety becomes the top priority.
“Under some extremely rare and unfortunate circumstances, it sometimes becomes necessary to take a dangerous animal like this,” Foy said.
More than half of California is considered mountain lion habitat. For more information on how to better coexist with mountain lions and other wildlife, please visit keepmewild.org.