Local Boy Hospitalized After Vicious Mountain Lion Attack

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Fish and Wildlife

A five-year-old Monte Nido boy is recovering at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles after a rare mountain lion attack. The mauling occurred Thursday morning, Aug. 26, in the boy’s own front yard. 

“He was very, very viciously mauled,” Patrick Foy, a captain with the law enforcement division of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told The Malibu Times.

“The screams and commotion alerted the mom who was inside the house. The mom rushed to his aid to literally save his life,” Foy continued, hailing the woman as a hero. “She fended off the mountain lion with strikes and punches.”

According to Foy, the young boy, whose identity has yet to be released, will survive.

After the boy’s parents rushed him to a local hospital, he was transferred to LA for specialized care. Foy described the child’s injuries as “significant and traumatic to his head, neck and upper torso.”

Soon after the injured child was stabilized, his mother returned home to check on her other son, a teenager, still at the Monte Nido residence. It was then that a warden was called from Fish and Wildlife to investigate the attack. Following protocol, the wildlife officer looked at photos of the injured child and concluded “there was a very high likelihood that this was in fact a mountain lion attack” according to Foy. The officer was then dispatched to the residence in the Malibu Hills to track down the mountain lion responsible for the attack. Armed with a patrol rifle, the officer took only a few steps out of his patrol vehicle into the victim’s yard when he encountered a mountain lion that, according to Foy, was “crouched.” 

“He said the ears were back and it was snarling at him and hissing,” Foy said. The officer was in contact with his superior at the time. He was able to kill the animal at close range with a single shot. A photo of the officer hovering over the dead lion is currently circulating on the internet. Fish and Wildlife officials have confirmed the photo is from the Monte Nido incident.

Another Wildlife Department officer was then sent to obtain forensic evidence from the hospital to match DNA evidence in an effort to conclusively demonstrate that “the right mountain lion was taken that was responsible for the attack.”

As the officer on scene was processing DNA evidence from the deceased mountain lion, two other mountain lions appeared on the scene. The larger of the two—believed to be a parent—had been tagged with a radio collar. The smaller lion was collar-free. The officer on the scene asked the victim’s mother if the animal she fought off was collared. The mother said “no.” 

According to Foy, “He didn’t want to kill more lions. It was his preference to try not to do that. He thought at the time when he shot the first mountain lion that it was the only one there. That ended up not being the case.” The officer then got a dart rifle with a tranquilizer dart and tracked the creature. He managed to shoot it and successfully recover the tranquilized big cat. That animal was taken to a facility where DNA evidence work was completed. “He darted the one that did not have a radio collar with the understanding that that was the highest probability that it was the lion responsible for the attack.”

The tranquilized animal, described as a juvenile lion, is roughly 65 pounds in size. It is likely a sibling to the mountain lion that was killed and nearly the same size.

Since May 2019 there have five mountain lion attacks in California. Foy told TMT in the course of his 24-year career these incidents are “extremely rare, yet we’ve had five since 2019.”

“As a society, we have some level of responsibility to learn to coexist with mountain lions and other wildlife,” Foy commented. “We have tips on how to do that on our website: keepmewild.org. But with 40 million people in California a mountain lion attacking somebody is still very, very rare.”

“The mountain lion that is responsible for the attack on Thursday has been removed,” Foy stated. That was confirmed after DNA evidence was sent to a forensics laboratory in Sacramento on Thursday. Scientists worked overnight to analyze the collected samples and Friday morning concluded that the lion shot by the Wildlife officer was in fact responsible for the Malibu-area attack. 

Meanwhile, the collared lion that is still in the wild is being tracked by the National Park Service. The captured lion, thought to be offspring of the collared animal, too was radio collared. It was released in a location in the Santa Monica Mountains where it was thought to have the greatest chance of reuniting with the third lion. Since both mountain lions are tracked by NPS and last seen in the Malibu Hills, it’s been advised to take precautions by keeping small animals indoors and to watch small children outdoors as well.

“Mountain lions, especially the ones with collars—they live around us. They live around developments, human populated areas and, most of the time, they do not interact at all with people,” Foy said. “No one even knows they’re there. These mountain lions have been around us for as long as people have been there. That doesn’t mean we cannot coexist. There are some things people can do to help improve the ability to coexist that can be found on our website.”

Speaking of the victim, Foy concluded, “He’s going to make it. I’ve seen on social media people upset about killing the lion, but the most important part is that that little boy is going to make it. He’s going to have scars for the rest of his life. That poor little guy. He really sustained some traumatic injuries. His mom absolutely saved his life. No question about it.”