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How rare are California mountain lion attacks?

KTLA-TV Los Angeles 9/28/2022 Travis Schlepp
How rare are California mountain lion attacks? © Provided by KTLA-TV Los Angeles How rare are California mountain lion attacks?

The search is on for a mountain lion that is believed to have attacked a small child at Pico Union Park near Santa Clarita.

The attack happened Monday when a 7-year-old boy was apparently bit on the rear by a mountain lion while the child was climbing some steps. The boy’s father was not far behind and was able to scare the big cat off, officials said.

The boy’s injuries were minor, but he was briefly hospitalized.

Now authorities are hoping to track down the involved cougar, who wildlife officials say is unusually aggressive.

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says mountain lion attacks are extremely rare, but they do happen.

Since 1986, there have been 22 confirmed mountain lion attacks in California. Almost all have been non-fatal attacks, but three have resulted in deaths. The last happening in 2004 in Orange County.

List of mountain lion attacks in California:

Fish and Wildlife says a mountain lion attack is defined as any incident resulting in “physical injury of death to the person.” Attacks are only considered verified when a doctor, law enforcement officer or Fish and Wildlife employee confirms the injuries were caused by a mountain lion.

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The boy who was attacked earlier this week had his wounds swabbed for DNA to confirm the attack and hopefully positively identify the cat involved.

Mountain lions typically pose little threat to humans and generally avoid any human interaction, but the cats thrive in the dense brush and hilly terrain that surrounds the Greater Los Angeles area.

Wildlife officials have provided tip to reduce your chance of encountering mountain lions and advice on what to do if you come across one.

  • Do not hike, bike, or jog alone and avoid doing so at dawn, dusk or nighttime
  • Stay alert on trails
  • Keep a close watch on small children and off leash pets
  • Never approach a mountain lion; Give them an escape route
  • Do not run if you spot a mountain lion
  • Stay calm and do not turn your back
  • Face the animal, make loud noises and try to look bigger
  • Do not crouch down or bend over
  • Anyone who spots a mountain lion is asked to immediately call 911

It’s unclear what will happen to the mountain lion believed to have attacked the child. In May, two coyotes were killed by law enforcement after a toddler was bit in Huntington Beach. Another coyote was killed under circumstances in Fountain Valley in June.

But mountain lions are a different beast - literally.

Mountain lions are a protected species in California and cannot be hunted, but there are exceptions to that rule when public safety is a concern.

For more information about mountain lions in California, click here.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there are between 4,000 and 6,000 mountain lions across the state.

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