California

Mountain Lion Killed Near Site of Cupertino Attack on Boy

Officers from California's Department of Fish and Wildlife have killed a mountain lion near the Cupertino hiking trail where a 6-year-old boy was attacked by a big cat on Sunday.

DFW confirms the animal was found Wednesday morning in a tree about 130 yards from the Picchetti Ranch Zinfandel Trail area, where the boy was attacked while hiking with his family. The 65-pound male mountain lion was killed with a rifle shot in an effort to protect public safety, wildlife officials said.

"The cat dispalyed unusually aggressive behavior -- it ignored the dogs, locked eyes with one of the wardens and appeared ready to pounce -- so they did shoot it," said DFW spokesperson Kirsten Macintyre. "These cats usually just don't want to come anywhere near people, and it showed no fear at all."

The animal's carcass was taken to Sacramento, Macintyre said. DFW’s wildlife investigation lab will be conducting a full forensics investigation, comparing evidence gathered at the attack to confirm the identity of the cat. Officials will conduct a complete necropsy and a rabies test.

It is unclear how long it will take for the rabies test to be completed.

Department of Fish and Game
This photo shows the prints trackers believe belong to the male mountain lion they think attacked a 6-year-old boy.

Visitors who frequent the area are relieved to hear the mountain lion is no longer on the loose.

"Now I'm really happy just to go fishing knowing it's safe," said Hanna Karam.

Wildlife officials said that the fact that the cat was so close to the attack site coupled with its territorial behavior makes it likely that this was a local mountain lion and not one that was passing through the area.

Searchers have been working day and night since Sunday afternoon' s attack that took place on the trail near Picchetti Winery. Wildlife experts went to the scene and picked up the cat's scent. After three days of investigating within a one-mile radius from the attack site, experts and specialized tracking dogs found a cat and treed it.

"The cat was about 70 feet up in the tree and tranquilizing it was not a reasonable option and the fall would have killed it anyway," DFW said in a statement. "No one at the department wanted to destroy this animal but protecting public safety is a first and foremost priority."

DFW said relocation of mountain lions gets evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The animal that attacked the little boy wasn't eligible because it had attacked a human, the agency said.

The mountain lion in the initial attack came out of nowhere and bit the boy's neck and back, as if he were "a deer," Fish and Game Lt. Pat Foy said in a previous interview.

The boy's father and a family friend yelled and screamed at the lion, which ran off. The boy was taken to Valley Medical Center in San Jose and released on Monday. His family has declined interviews.

On Wednesday, a scientist at the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Sacramento determined the cat was a male based on saliva found on the boy's T-shirt.

Mountain lion attacks causing death and serious injury are rare in California. There have only been three deadly cases since 1986, when DFW began documenting them. They occurred in El Dorado, San Diego and Orange counties.

There have been 11 nonfatal cases in California during that time period – none in the Bay Area.

According to DFW, an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions live in California. For information on how to stay safe while living or recreating in mountian lion territory, click here.

NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

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