A 6-year-old girl was attacked by a 160-pound mountain lion in a California nature park, ABC News reports. Fortunately, an adult fought the cat off by punching it in the ribs, and the girl was able to escape with minor injuries.
The Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve in Santa Clara County, California, is a natural area popular with hikers and other visitors. Early Sunday morning, a young girl and her parents, plus a group of other adults and children, were walking in the park when a mountain lion jumped out of the bushes and attacked the little girl.
“It came out of the bushes and right about when it grabbed a hold of the girl and an adult pushed the mountain lion and it ran off,” said Brad Pennington, a MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District ranger.
Specifically, one of the adults — it’s not clear who — punched the animal in its ribs, scaring it off.
A park ranger gave first aid to the girl and treated her for minor injuries before her parents took her to a hospital. According to various reports, she suffered minor puncture wounds to her calf. She is expected to make a full recovery.
Hundreds of visitors were in the park that day, but unfortunately, it has since been closed until further notice while authorities try to locate the animal.
“We will immobilize the cat and put it in a large trap so it come to it. But prior to that we will take DNA samples from it so we can make sure we have the correct cat,” said Cpt. Todd Tognazzini with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Officials have DNA from both the cat and the victim, which they can use for comparison in order to confirm a match.
Tognazzini wouldn’t say what would happen to the cat once it is trapped and identified but was clear that it wouldn’t be left in the park.
Meanwhile, area residents around the park tell San Francisco’s KGO-TV that they know that mountain lions prowl about in the wild spaces near their homes, but they believe that the animals generally avoid humans.
“There are mountain lions that wonder around here once in a while. It’s usually in the dark and not during the day,” said Cupertino resident Evelyn Horng.
Authorities say that mountain lions will generally make it a point to avoid areas where humans are and will flee if they spot one or more. In the rare instance that a mountain lion doesn’t flee, try to make yourself appear as large and noisy as possible, and slowly back away — do not turn and run.