A mountain lion was killed after attacking and injuring a 5-year-old boy in his front yard near Calabasas earlier this week, officials said Saturday.
The 65-pound mountain lion left the boy with wounds to his head, neck and upper torso when it attacked around 10:45 a.m. Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.
The child’s mother fended off the lion by striking it multiple times, officials said.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” the department’s Capt. Patrick Foy told the Associated Press. “The mother was inside the house when she heard commotion outside.”
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” he said.
The parents then rushed the boy to a hospital, where he remained in stable condition Saturday.
The incident marks the first verified mountain lion attack on a human in Los Angeles County in more than 25 years.
Authorities were not specific about where the incident occurred but multiple posts on the neighborhood news site Nextdoor indicated the attack took place in the Monte Nido community, which is in the Santa Monica Mountains between Calabasas and Malibu.
Fish and Wildlife officers quickly visited the scene, where an officer discovered an “aggressive” mountain lion crouched in the corner of the property while clearing the family’s yard, officials said.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on site,” Fish and Wildlife said.
Just about 20 minutes later, two more mountain lions appeared.
One was a full-grown adult with a radio collar around its neck — later identified as P-54 — and the other a smaller, 65-pound mountain lion.
“After confirming with the boy’s mother that the attacking lion did not have a collar, the wildlife officer used a non-lethal tranquilizing rifle to capture the other non-collared lion,” officials said.
Authorities confirmed that the mountain lion shot and killed was the one responsible for injuring the boy.
They analyzed samples from underneath the claws of the dead lion and isolated traces of human tissue and blood with a DNA profile that matched the boy’s.
A full lion DNA profile was also isolated from the victim’s shirt that matched the profile of the lion carcass, officials said.
“Results were conclusive that it was the attacking lion that was shot by the wildlife officer on scene,” Fish and Wildlife said.
The mountain lion that attacked the child is one of P-54’s cubs, according Foy.
P-54, which is known to have birthed cubs in October 2020, has since left the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the tranquilized lion was collared and released in the nearest suitable habitat near P-54.
The National Park Service has been studying mountain lions and their movement in the area, monitoring nearly 100 big cats in and around the Santa Monica Mountains using GPS radio-collars.
Mountain lion attacks are incredibly rare in California. There hasn’t been an attack in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to the wildlife agency.
Experts say mountain lions are generally calm and elusive, and the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is low compared to many other natural hazards, according to the National Park Service.
Here are some tips on what to do if a mountain lion approaches.