Wildlife officials find, euthanize mountain lion that attacked child at Rancho San Antonio | News | Mountain View Online |


Wildlife officials find, euthanize mountain lion that attacked child at Rancho San Antonio

Popular open space preserve on Los Altos/Cupertino border set to reopen Friday, Feb. 21

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Tyler Barshow, a ranger with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, stands watch on Feb. 18 at the entrance of Rancho San Antonio Preserve. The preserve is closed until further notice while officials search for a mountain lion that attacked a child at the preserve on Feb. 16. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

UPDATE: Days after a mountain lion grabbed a 6-year-old girl at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, the attacking animal has been found and euthanized, wildlife officials said Thursday, Feb. 20.

The popular preserve is set to reopen to the public on Friday. Feb. 21.

DNA testing showed that the animal, a female weighing 60-70 pounds and estimated to be between 2 and 4 years old, was the same one that attacked a child walking on a preserve trail Sunday, Feb. 16, said Jordan Traverso, spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The preserve, located in Cupertino and Los Altos, was closed while Fish and Wildlife and rangers from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District – the agency that operates the preserve – looked for the mountain lion.

According to Todd Tognazzini, a law enforcement captain with California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, the girl was walking with adults on Wildcat Loop Trail – a name that now carries a "strange irony," he said.

The group was about 2 miles from the main parking area around 10 a.m. on Feb. 16, when the mountain lion, hiding in some bushes, attacked the girl, Tognazzini said.

She had two puncture wounds and a scratch on her calf, injuries that suggest the mountain lion grabbed, rather than bit her, he said.

Almost immediately, the nearest adult, a friend of the girl's father, sprang into action, pushing the lion off of her so forcefully he fell down and skinned his knee.

A district ranger gave the child first aid and she was released to her parents. Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies and Santa Clara County Fire paramedics also responded.

Such attacks, Tognazzini said, are extremely rare – there have been only 18 mountain lion attacks on humans in the last century, he said, and three fatalities related to mountain lion attacks during that time, two in 1994 and one in 2004.

The most recent mountain lion attack, he said, occurred last month when a mountain lion grabbed a 3-year-old boy in Orange County by the head. The attack was fended off, the boy was hospitalized, and the lion, which remained in the area after the attack, was killed by public safety officers.

There's no theory yet as to why the Rancho San Antonio incident occurred, Tognazzini said. It was late morning and there were lots of people on the trail, uncommon conditions for an attack, he said.

In August, the park was closed for over a week due to a number of sightings of a mountain lion and her cubs.

Mountain lions live throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. They generally are not a threat to people, and encounters like Sunday's are unusual, rangers said. Nevertheless, park visitors should remain vigilant when in mountain lion territory.

The search

Finding the mountain lion that attacked the girl, and ensuring it is the correct animal, is a complex task, Tognazzini said. After the attack, the Department of Fish and Wildlife collected DNA samples from the girl's clothing and from medical supplies used to treat her wound. The samples were tested in the department's forensics lab, and were confirmed to contain mountain lion DNA.

The department found the lion in a tree on Wednesday, Feb. 19, sedated it and tested its DNA, finding that it was a match with the samples found on the girl's clothing, said Traverso. The lion was humanely euthanized by CDFW staff for public safety purposes.

"CDFW is actively engaged in mountain lion conservation across the state. However, public safety is a top priority. We made the decision to euthanize the lion because it was confirmed to have attacked a human," Traverso said in an email.

To track mountain lion movement, rangers from the open space district had set up multiple trail cameras to capture images of wildlife in the area, he said.

Staying safe

Mountain lions are typically most active at dawn, dusk, and at night, according to the MROSD website, which recommends people avoid hiking or jogging at those times.

In addition, the open space district recommends that people stay alert; avoid hiking, biking or jogging alone; keep a close watch on small children; and do not wear headphones.

If people see a mountain lion in the wild, Tognazzini said, they should make themselves big, not run away, draw children close and make loud noises.

While dogs are not permitted at Rancho San Antonio, he added, people should keep their dogs on leashes in other parks where they are permitted, as the incidence of mountain lions attacking or eating dogs is far higher than mountain lion attacks on humans. People are far more likely to die in a car crash heading to an open space or rural area than they are of a mountain lion attack while there, he said.


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8 people like this
Posted by ConcernedPlebeian
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2020 at 1:36 pm

Ranger is wrong about number of deaths. Didn’t include the child killed in Southern California in the 1970s. Body was never found after mountain lion instantly took the child. I read that the child was walking slightly ahead of the parents

About the trail name, forty years ago, i heard the trail was called wildcat loop tail because it was the trail used by mountain lions

50 people like this
Posted by Same MO
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 6:26 am

There is a very simple to see pattern in the last 3 attacks in our area:

*A small child is walking slightly ahead of the adults at the time of attack.

If you are walking with small kids in Mountain Lion Country (Yes, that's EXACTLY what Rancho is) they should be right at your side, always.
Same goes for any leashed pets where allowed.

Young lions try new things, esp when very hungry. A small child seems very tempting and available when away from adults, so they try it. Immediately the adults jump in, the lion has a "Oh @#$%" moment, leaves the child and quickly runs away. That has been the pattern of at least 3 recent encounters.

Rancho is not a sanitized area like golf courses or city parks. It is land filled with risks and animals capable of killing you.
Simple precautions allow us to be on that land with very minimal risk, but as we clearly see now, if your small child is not basically at your hip, the risks are greatly increased. Walking with a few good sized rocks in your pocket is also smart.

The recent attacks would have not happened if the kids were very close to adults. It's not the parents fault, though. It's not something that people truly understand, so I think a big communication push by the land stewards in the area to educate the public about the very real dangers is needed. Something more than the current signs, aimed specifically at parents of small kids, which is the highest risk demographic. I really don't think people understand how well a lion can hide and how quickly they can strike.

54 people like this
Posted by roaksinri
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:07 am

Why doesn't the Open Space District enlist experienced game hunters to hunt the offending lion rather than using cameras and other devices that seem to rely on passive chance rather than proactive hunt and immobilize?

5 people like this
Posted by Drew G.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:47 am

Agree with roaksinki...eom

49 people like this
Posted by Informed
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:26 am

They usually contract with experienced people who use dogs to find them then euthanize.
You don't understand the full picture if you think they just use passive means. It's such a rare event, though, that most people don't know this.

19 people like this
Posted by Mario
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:36 am

Let the mountain lion be. These calls to hunt and kill the mountain lion are asinine. Parents need to be more aware when they are hiking in Rancho with children.

88 people like this
Posted by ConcernedPlebeian
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:00 am

The problem is mountain lion population is too large. When was the last time anyone saw a herd of deer near the old seminary? Or even a bunch of jack rabbits? That’s also not good for fire safety because it causes fuel build up that lead to ladder fires that burn down forests

24 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:10 am

I kind of agree with Mario.
Why euthanize this mountain lion? They are predators and that is how they survive.
They should not be killed for attacking a prey. It is up to the people hiking the area to understand that they are at risk, and that they are in a wilderness area, where dangerous animals live.It is not the humans home, but the animals that inhabit the area. This is the same in Alaska and Montana with grizzlies. You are in someone else's territory and you need to assume the risk.

If we euthanize one mountain lion, why not euthanize all of them and make the area safe ? I know some will say that its a "rogue" lion, but it is not. They will all attack a human depending on the situation. I don't think this ML should be hunted down.
I do know the population is increasing in many areas, so there should be active studies on the population.

388 people like this
Posted by That's nothing
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:26 am

Wait till the wolves get reintroduced.

48 people like this
Posted by @ConcernedPlebeian
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:42 am

I see more deer and turkeys in Rancho than anywhere. Dozens at a time almost every visit, at least once per week. I can';t recall a time I've been there and NOT seen piles of deer.
You need a better hike, or at least get out in the morning!
If you're serious I can show you myself any day of the week. Let me know.
Also, false narratives are just that.

57 people like this
Posted by @Citizen
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 1:44 pm

When you say "This is the same in Alaska and Montana with grizzlies."
Speaking as someone who lived outside Anchorage for 12 years,
I agree that they do a good job of teaching bear awareness, but they also will kill any bear that regularly become aggressive with humans, and they will QUICKLY kill a bear that actually attacks.

Here's the thing, most bears and lions have a healthy fear of humans. A wild animal that crosses over and attacks a human is never tolerated. It is rare, most all bears and lions will run from humans most every time. The ones that lose that fear will always be a real threat and should be removed. It's not normal "animals just being animals", it's actually abnormal.

12 people like this
Posted by Marlene Bueler
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2020 at 5:53 pm

Can you quit killing our mountain lions

8 people like this
Posted by Meadow lark
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:51 pm

Did anyone check to see if she was the lion with cubs? Isn’t this when they are likely to attack?

34 people like this
Posted by Biologist
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 5:39 am

It was a cub-less 2-4 year old 70lb female. Undersized, likely struggling so it crossed over and tried to take a human out of desperation. This was a broken animal. It is NOT just a lion being a lion. Lions very rarely attack humans, but we can entice the most desperate ones to attack by dangling small unattended children in front of them.

Still, one they cross the line and try to take a human as prey, it must be destroyed. The population is strong. At only 70lbs mid winter that cat was likely looking to a more painful death from starvation or illness in a few months. The cat population is very healthy in our hills so this should not affect that.

10 people like this
Posted by rancho runner
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:08 am

There seem to be a lot of missing details. First, necropsy results will give an exact weight, not 60-70lbs. The exact location was not identified. Some areas are wide open space and others close to the shrubs. It is unclear to me how an "attack" will only leave minor injuries to a small child, that would require an adult to punch the lion in the ribs to retreat. Earlier reports was that is was confirmed by DNA to be a mountain lion, but the news stories were still listing it as a 100(some stories 160) lbs. male. The DNA confirmation would have cleared up the sex question early in the week. The public deserves better information after a 5 day shutdown of the park.

16 people like this
Posted by @Rancho Runner
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:39 am

Latest news confirms FEMALE cat's DNA matched up to the girl's wounds. They had to pick it up so I trust they can give a fair estimate of it's weight:
Web Link

Similarly, a child was "plucked" off trail in Pitchetti Ranch by a cat and sustained only minor injuries.
It's consistent with a smaller desperate cat making an attempt to grab a kid then very quickly releasing it once confronted by adult humans.
It likely transpired over a matter of 3-5 seconds, as consistent with previous attempts by smaller cats trying to take an unattended kid.

12 people like this
Posted by Angela T.
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 3:33 pm

I completely agree with "Citizen" above, In fact, he/she basically wrote everything that I wanted to say. I would like to add that the first comment I made to myself when I discovered that this poor lioness had been euthanized: "I wonder if any caring human soul has been able to make a search as to whether there are any unattended cubs left behind". Unfortunately, I do not know much about Mountain Lions. Still, I cannot help but think and make my comment. Because we are living today in a disappearing world. It's so easy these days to start a snowball approach to getting rid of creatures that humans believe are in their way. This behavior, even over a short period of time, can lead to extinction. Go ahead... roll your eyes. Yes, I am one of THOSE. It is partly this type of behavior which has led our world to the mess that it is in. I believe that it is humans who bring the grief to the animals - by killing them for being who they (the animals) are - and to themselves for not taking total precaution when in someone else's (the Mountain Lion's) territory. Seems to me that children should be carried - or even not brought along at all - on hikes like this one. There are so many other places to take children and still commune with nature, without endangering nature itself by human presence.

247 people like this
Posted by It's well intended, but
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 3:47 pm

There are reasons we don't manage our lands based on emotion or cuteness of animal.
I'm glad those who do know about lions are in charge and taking actions to protect human lives.

15 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 3:52 pm

Why kill the animal?
If you go out in nature expect to encounter wildlife.

10 people like this
Posted by Natalie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 21, 2020 at 3:58 pm

Please, keep your kids next to you in order to prevent death of mountain lions, these beautiful creatures.
I am very upset.
Probably, the lion would have never attacked a human again, because she was scared off and felt it was dangerous for her.

Still don't understand why they killed the lion instead of giving it to a zoo?

23 people like this
Posted by Oh my
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 4:05 pm

It's spelled out pretty clearly in the posts above about why they needed to euthanize this particular lion.
An animal trying to kill a human is VERY rare and it NOT NORMAL behavior.They would also euthanize a known aggressive coyote or bobcat if it went for a human. this is because it is the behavior of a BROKEN animal which poses real risk to human lives.

You cannot allow a specific animal KNOWN to attack humans to roam free and try it again, better next time. Normal mtn lions would never think about attacking a human and their populations are booming in this area. Very rarely, with thin this healthy population is a sick desperate animal who might try and kill a child. Once this is known, the safety of future children becomes more important than preserving the life of a single lion known to attack humans.
This is smart management despite what the Disney movie crowd says. This has always been the policy and again, our lion population has never been healthier in the past 100 years. With smart management, we have lots of lions, lots of visitors and very few issues of any human injury.

203 people like this
Posted by A zoo?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 4:11 pm

Mtn lions are very plentiful and I'm sure any zoo that wants one has them. A zoo that would take an undersized lion known to be aggressive with human children would be a very suspect zoo IMO.
In any event, the short answer to the zoo thing is that there simply aren't any that would take this animal. This one is like a rabid skunk...gotta put it down

11 people like this
Posted by Natalie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 21, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Reply to A ZOO.

I didn't suggest to give it to a petting zoo, where the lion's aggressiveness to a child would matter.

And no, not every zoo around has a mountain lion.

Also, I am positive that some of them would take a FREE mountain lion.

Sometimes a simple move can get a great result.

13 people like this
Posted by Aaaand Time!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 4:52 pm

OMG, you really don't know do you...only what you think in your head.
It's not like you've imagined things at all. Call some zoos, seriously, and ask about the future donation of a free underweight mtn lion that attacked someone. Good luck.

15 people like this
Posted by Marlene Bueler
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 5:13 pm

Rancho is not a park down the street from ur house. U r in there territory. Please stop getting so close to wildlife that it gets used to us. We r low on food chain. Carry mace,horn blowers,walking sticks to at least scare away any problem animals in order to keep our wild wild.

11 people like this
Posted by Nancy Lopez
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 21, 2020 at 6:36 pm

I am proposing that this place be renamed Dead Wildcat Loop Trail to raise public awareness about this horrible and preventable incident. Hope the hikers enjoy their new soulless, sterile, mountain lion free environment.

20 people like this
Posted by Nancy Lopez
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:08 pm

Natalie, take heart and don't let people talk you out of your instincts. Women have always been accused of being emotional when questioning injustice to wildlife. Women are fixers and nurturers, and choose life over death. Who are these people to say this animal couldn't be saved?

5 people like this
Posted by Ari
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 10:55 pm

This is sad. It is is in their territory, so it doesn’t ‘have to be euthanized’. By going into their territory, these risks are given, and accepted. The lion didn’t do anything wrong, it was doing what it needed to do. The lion should just have been transported to a less trafficked area.

And even though we can’t do anything about this euthanizing process, we can help prevent these by keeping young kids next to us. DO NOT let them go away. Then we won’t have this problem in the first place.

113 people like this
Posted by So sad
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2020 at 4:18 am

I feel bad for the people who don't or won't understand the whole picture. I'm sorry your lack of understanding causes you sadness. I just wish you were capable of understanding so your heavy heart is healed.

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