A 3 1/2-year-old boy attacked by a mountain lion in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park was recuperating at home Tuesday and “doing OK,” a state Fish and Wildlife captain said.
A family of six went on a hike in the Lake Forest park on Monday and were on their way back to a parking lot about 4:10 p.m. when a mountain lion leapt out of a tree and pounced on the boy, state Fish and Wildlife Capt. Pat Foy said.
The boy’s father, an experienced hiker, “knew to shout aggressively at the lion, who now had his son in his jaws,” Foy said.
The father “charged at the lion, and as he did so the startled lion started to let go of his son,” Foy said.
The lion “immediately assumed a defensive posture, so the dad, who was wearing a backpack, took it off and threw it at the lion,” Foy said.
The lion grabbed the backpack in its mouth and ran back up the tree, Foy said.
The family called 911 and sheriff’s deputies quickly responded to the scene.
Fish and Wildlife officials told the deputies that if they had an opportunity to “take out” the lion they should take it, Foy said.
A deputy fatally shot the lion, and Foy said the deputy “made the right call in that particular case.”
The boy was taken to a hospital for treatment of neck injuries and cuts, but Foy said he has been released and is “doing OK.”
“It was obviously a super traumatic experience for him,” Foy said.
Authorities have fielded “a lot of questions” regarding whether the family “was doing the right thing being in a place where mountain lions exist,” Foy said.
But the captain said the family was not only welcome in the park, they were encouraged, like any residents, to enjoy the park.
“Mountain lions rarely attack people,” Foy said.
In the past 100 years of record keeping, there have been 16 mountain lion attacks, three of which ended with a fatality, Foy said.
“So, the statistics will tell you … the drive to the park is far more risky than being attacked by a lion at the park,” Foy said.
The park was evacuated by Orange County sheriff’s deputies, who flew over the park in a helicopter and used a loudspeaker to instruct people to leave.
Citing “the threat to public safety,” the sheriff’s department received authorization from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to euthanize the mountain lion about 5:20 p.m., according to a sheriff’s department tweet.
The park is expected to reopen on Wednesday, said Marisa O’Neil of OC Parks.
A 35-year-old cyclist, Mark Reynolds, was killed by a mountain lion in the park in 2004. He was fixing his bike when he was attacked by the puma, which then attacked two other people who found Reynolds’ body. That mountain lion was later tracked down and killed.
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