A six year old girl walking with her father and several other adults and children was attacked by a mountain lion while walking on a trail in Santa Clara County.
The girl who was not seriously injured was bitten on the calf. Adults who were with the group managed to fight off the animal and chase it back.
A extensive search with dogs and conservation officers were underway but the mountain lion has not been located.
The girl and the rest of the group were walking on the trails of Rancho San Antonio Preserve in Santa Clara County about an hour outside of San Francisco.
The 3,988-acre open space preserve, combined with the adjoining 165-acre county park, has people and bike and equestrian access.
The girl was walking with her father and several other adults and children around 9:45 a.m., about a mile from the front entrance, when a mountain lion bit her in the calf. The dad’s friend fought off the animal.
Rangers closed the park 10 minutes after the attack was reported and crews on ATVs alerted hikers to leave the park. The park issued a statement on social media:
Rancho is temporarily closed to allow Fish & Wildlife to investigate: a child sustained minor injuries while walking on a trail by an animal suspected to be a mountain lion. Avoid the area to allow officials to work safely.
Several teams with the Department of Fish and Wildlife searched for the animal – believed to weigh about 100 pounds – late into the night with a group of specially trained dogs from Oroville.
Unable to locate the animal, the search was called off for the night and was slated to resume Monday morning. The park will remain closed until further notice.
The goal is for the dogs to “tree” the mountain lion and have officials shoot it with a tranquilizer gun. A DNA swab will be taken from the animal to see if it matches bite wounds from the girl.
After the animal is located and identified, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will determine what action to take.
The public is being asked to avoid the area to let officials work safely.
The preserve has a notice about mountain lions and their importance as a top-level predator:
If you see a mountain lion do not run; slowly back away, leave the area and report the sighting to a Midpen ranger at 650-691-2165.
Mountain lions in California face many challenges. They need large habitats, and because their native territories in the Santa Cruz Mountains have become hemmed in by roads and development, some mountain lions inhabit areas of open space near the wildland-urban interface. As a top-level predator, mountain lions play an important role our local ecosystem and projects like the Midpen Highway 17 Wildlife and Trail Crossings are critical to keeping wildlife populations safe and healthy.