An investigation is underway after a 4-year-old boy was apparently attacked by a mountain lion in San Diego County’s Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday.
Wildlife officers were dispatched to a trailhead at the preserve around 2:30 p.m. Monday after San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel treated the child for an injury consistent with a mountain lion attack.
His wounds were not considered to be life-threatening, officials said.
The child was in the middle of a group of six adults and five children when he was attacked, said Lt. Scott Bringman at news conference Tuesday.
The group immediately scattered, but the father remained behind. He threw rocks at the big cat, forcing the animal to retreat from the area, according to Bringman.
The child is being treated for head injuries at Rady’s Children Hospital.
While officers were investigating, they located mountain lion tracks in area. Soon after, they were approached by a cougar.
“The lion appeared to have little fear of humans, which is abnormal behavior for a mountain lion. The wildlife officers immediately dispatched the animal to ensure public safety,” the release stated.
After killing the animal, officers sent the carcass to the department's Sacramento Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, where a necropsy and DNA analysis would be performed.
Clothing and other samples were collected from the child and will also be analyzed as forensics specialists try to confirm the boy was attacked by the animal.
Bringman noted that such incidents are "extremely rare" in the San Diego County, with the last mountain lion attack reported more than two decades ago.
No additional details about the incident have been released.