6-year-old girl attacked by mountain lion while walking trail in Santa Clara County

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Monday, February 17, 2020
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The girl was walking with two other children when it happened. An adult who was with them reportedly freed her by punching the mountain lion in the ribs.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A 6-year-old girl was attacked by a mountain lion Sunday in the Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve.

The incident happened around 10 a.m. while the child was walking on a trail about 2 miles from the main parking lot, park officials said.

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"The animal, suspected to be a mountain lion, was scared away by adults who were with the child," they said.

"It came out of the bushes, and right about when it grabbed a hold of the girl, an adult pushed the mountain lion and it ran off," said MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District ranger Brad Pennington.

The 6-year-old was walking with her parents in a group of six adults and four children. They were going up the hill on one of the busiest trails on Rancho San Antonio.

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"Right now she has minor injuries. A couple puncture wounds to her calf. She was also treated for minor first aid and then her parents took her to the hospital," said Pennington.

According to the park rangers, the preserve was experiencing one of the busiest days of the season with a parking lot for 300 cars at full capacity.

"A little bit nervous. I know that mountain lions only attack in certain situations," Cupertino Resident, Ron Yu.

Neighbors who've lived around the preserved are aware of the mountain lion population in the hills, but were shocked to hear about the attack.

"There are mountain lions that wander around here once in a while. It's usually in the dark and not during the day," said Cupertino resident, Evelyn Horng.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is now searching for the mountain lion in hopes of preventing a second attack.

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"We will immobilize the cat and put it in a large trap, so it come to it. But prior to that we will take DNA samples from it so we can make sure we have the correct cat," said Cpt. Todd Tognazzini with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The CDFW has four specialized dogs at the preserve searching for the mountain lion.

"We'll have some DNA samples from the victim, and we'll have DNA evidence, if we're successful, from the cat," said Cpt. Tognazzini.

The cat is believe to be about 160 pounds. If located, Captain Tognazzini says they'll decide what action to take next.

"I can't say in this incident what would happen. I know that we wouldn't leave the cat here," said Cpt. Tognazzini.

The girl was reportedly walking with three other children when the attack happened. An adult who was with them rescued her by punching the animal in the ribs.

A Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District ranger treated the child at the scene for minor injuries.

She was then released into the care of his or her parents.

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The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and Fire Department also responded.

The park and preserve are closed until further notice.

Here is the full statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Services:

"California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers, with assistance from Midpen rangers, are investigating the incident and attempting to locate and positively identify the animal. Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve is closed until further notice, and will reopen when the investigation is finished and Midpen determines it is safe to do so.

Midpen works closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to minimize conflicts between wildlife and people. When an encounter happens and the animal can be located and positively identified, CDFW determines what action to take.

Mountain lionslive throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains region and generally are not a threat to people. Most avoid areas of human activity and are easily scared off by loud noises. Seeing a mountain lion is rare and an encounter like this is very unusual.

Visitors to parks and open space should remain vigilant when outdoors in mountain lion territory. If you see a mountain lion in Midpen preserves, remain calm, make yourself large and loud and slowly back away. Never turn your back or run. Report sighting to Midpen rangers at 650-691-2165."