A nature preserve park in California’s Santa Clara County has been temporarily closed after a 6-year-old girl was bitten in the leg by what is believed to be a mountain lion on Sunday morning. The child’s injuries were minor. An investigation has been launched to locate and confirm the identity of the animal, which is thought to be an adult male lion, park authorities confirmed.
The incident took place at the Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve near the city of Cupertino around 9:45 a.m. (local time) while the girl was on a walking trail with her family. Her father managed to scare away the animal, which reportedly weighed about 100 pounds, just after it bit the girl in the calf.
“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, a superintendent with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen), which manages the park, said (via CBS SF Bay Area).
Mountain Lion Bites Head of Boy, Child Fights Off Animal With Stick
Officials closed the park around 10 minutes after the incident, alerting visitors to leave the venue and avoid the area while an investigation is being conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). A park ranger administered first aid to the child at the scene, before she was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure. She has since been released, CBS SF Bay Area reported.
“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.
The park will remain closed until the investigation is complete.
While mountain lion sightings are common, the latest encounter was unusual, since they are nocturnal animals and stay away from human activity, a spokesperson for Midpen told The Mercury News.
“It’s rare, but the Santa Cruz mountains are the habitat for mountain lions, so folks should be vigilant and aware,” the spokesperson said.
If you see a mountain lion “you should remain calm, make yourself loud and large, and slowly back away,” they added.
The latest incident is the third time since August 2019 that the park has been closed following mountain lion sightings, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Back in August, Rancho San Antonio County Park was shut after a family of at least three mountain lions was seen near a trail on park grounds. Multiple sightings had also been reported in the week prior to the incident, Pennington confirmed at the time.
Back in September, an 8-year-old boy managed to fend off a mountain lion using a stick after being bit in the head outside his home in Colorado.