Mom saves son after 'unprovoked' and 'vicious' mountain lion attack in San Mateo Co., officials say

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, February 2, 2023
Officials: Boy injured in 'vicious' San Mateo Co. mountain lion attack
A 5-year-old boy was "viciously attacked" by a mountain lion Tuesday night in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County, according to officials.

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A 5-year-old boy is now home from the hospital after a terrifying mountain lion attack Tuesday night in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County.

Wildlife wardens spent Wednesday searching for signs of the mountain lion that attacked the young boy.

"We are doing our best to try and capture the mountain lion and remove it so it can't threaten anyone else," said Captain Patrick Foy.

MORE: What to do if you come face-to-face with a mountain lion

Five-year-old Jack was walking with his mom and grandpa near Tunitas Creek Road when he was attacked by a mountain lion just before 7 p.m.

"Jack, being the little ball of energy that he is, got a little ahead of his mom and grandparents and must have frightened the mountain lion. Fortunately, it was a juvenile," said Amie Wagner, Jack's aunt.

"It was a pretty vicious attack. It took him to the ground and apparently was described as biting into this young child. The mom lunged at the mountain lion and before making contact with it, the lion let her son go," said Foy.

Neighbors in the area say they have seen mountain lions before but the Department of Fish and Wildlife says it's very rare that the animals attack humans.

In the hours that followed, ABC7 met a resident who lives on the neighboring property from where the incident happened. He says he was the first one on scene.

"They were pretty calm when I pulled up, they're my neighbors so I asked them if they were okay. They were very... they were good. They said everybody's fine, but they had to talk to fish and game, and a warden pulled up right as I pulled out," neighbor Chad Conover said. "Typically the mountain lions avoid people, so it's not often you hear about an attack on a human."

Jack's family thinks the mountain lion was probably surprised by the boy.

RELATED: Boy, 7, attacked by cougar in California

According to his family, Jack was pretty bruised and beaten up overall. The sheriff says the boy has puncture wounds and the DWF says the cougar was chewing on him.

"He has a lot of lacerations, bruising especially on his face. He has one fracture near his eye. His eye is really swollen. He's all stitched up," said Wagner.

Jack's aunt set up a GoFundMe page to help the family with all the medical bills.

She says Jack's parents manage an organic farm and everything they produce goes to serve people who are experiencing homelessness.

"I know it takes both of Jack's parents working very hard every day to keep the farm running. And they're going to need some extra support as they focus on his recovery," said Wagner.

MORE: Oakland Zoo responds after police defend fatal shooting of mountain lion

Loved ones are grateful things weren't worse for Jack.

"He's a brave courageous little boy and he's going to come out of it with his spirit intact," said Wagner.

Jack's dad Jay released the following statement after this story aired:

"First, I just want to express gratitude for my wife who is the bravest woman I know. She did what she needed to do and saved my son Jack. We have lived and worked on this property for 12 plus years.
We know the risks of working and hiking in the hills where we live with mountain lions in the area. We carry bear spray to be safe. Those precautions didn't matter in this case. Our son Jack is an active boy who loves to run and explore. That said, when we are in the hills we keep him close by.
He wasn't too far ahead of my wife when the juvenile cat was startled and reacted. It happened so fast. Fortunately, my wife reacted immediately, charged at the cat, and it ran off. Then she carried our son back down the hill and got him to the hospital quickly. He was taken to Kaiser and then Stanford Pediatric Trauma, one of the best children's hospitals in the country. He had lacerations on his face, as well as a fracture near his eye, many other cuts and scratches all over his body. He was examined with great care, stitched up and attended to by an incredible care team. He is now recovering at home and is going to be okay once his injuries heal. He's a very resilient kid, and I am hoping he will bounce back quickly. When he recounted the story to me, he said, "Dad, a mountain lion tackled me!" Today, two days after the incident, the swelling in his eye is going down. This will be helpful to fully assess if he'll need surgery or not. Also, he had a great nights rest and has had moments of playfulness amidst periods of rest and pain management.

We are going to give our son all the love and care he needs, and then when he is absolutely ready, we'll start hiking again because that is what we do. We are an outdoor-loving family, and this experience will not take that away from us. I think it's important to not be afraid of mountain lions but to take care and be alert when you are in their habitat. Even though it doesn't happen often, things like this can happen in an instant. You have to respect big animals that are capable of hurting you or your loved ones. We are grateful the cat wasn't bigger and that it didn't bite our son because it would have been a different story.

We are going to help our son recover and then go live our life to the fullest.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out and supported us. We are so grateful for your kindness and truly blown away by the outpouring of love."

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