LOS ALTOS (CBS SF) — A 6-year-old girl was injured while walking on a trail after an attack by animal suspected to be a mountain lion at the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve on Sunday, park officials said.
The park, managed by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen), was closed all day Sunday as California Fish and Wildlife specialists investigated the attack.
A park ranger provided first aid to the child at around 10 a.m. on the dirt trail, which is about two miles from the park’s main parking area.
The child sustained minor injuries and was treated on-scene before being taken to a hospital as a precaution. She was later released to parental care. The animal was scared away by adults who were present.
“The mountain lion came out of the bushes and reached for the girl, actually got her back leg with its claws and one of the friends of the family was able to push the lion away into the bushes and it took off running,” said Brad Pennington, Superintendent with Midpen.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department also responded to the scene.
There is no estimated time for the park to reopen.
“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,” the park district said in a statement.
This kind of encounter is extremely rare, especially because mountain lions are highly nocturnal and generally not a threat to people, Midpen official said.
Mountain lions typically stay away from areas of human activity. In fact, Midpen says this is the first time it has had such contact between a mountain lion and a human. Sightings are fairly common.
Wildlife Services from the Department of Agriculture is using hound dogs to track the scent of the lion, believed to be an adult male.
“And hopefully we get a lion up a tree, which is what normally happens when you have trained dogs on a lion. If the lion goes up a tree, we have a couple of my officers that are mobilization specialists, they’ll load a dart with some drug to knock the lion out,” said Todd Tognazzini, Patrol Captain with California Fish & Wildlife.
Molly Wu usually hikes at San Antonio County Park on Sunday evenings.
“I’m very wary about it and normally I do carry a walking stick with me, in case I encounter one, and I have a whistle,” said Wu.
She says she often sees other kinds of wildlife including deer, bunnies and turkeys.
“It makes me very sad for the family obviously, but also very sad for the wildlife because I know this park is very, very popular. And I think we’re loving it to death. There’s just so many people here on most days, you can’t even get parking,” said Wu.
Rancho San Antonio County Park will reopen when the investigation is finished the park authority determines its safe to do so.
Midpen officials are asking people to avoid the area to allow investigators to work safely.