A male mountain lion believed to have attacked a 6-year-old boy was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon in the Northern California community of Cupertino, wildlife officials said.
The 65-pound cougar was spotted 70 feet up a tree by wildlife experts, who located the mountain lion using tracking dogs, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. The big cat was unusually aggressive and fixated on an officer, officials said, before being shot with a rifle.
Authorities believe it was the same mountain lion that attacked the boy Sunday in an open space preserve near a winery because it was close to the area and it displayed territorial behavior. It's unlikely it was another cougar passing through the area, officials said.
Relocating the mountain lion was not an option because it had attacked a human, wildlife officials said.
"Tranquilizing it was not a reasonable option and the fall would have killed it anyway," the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. "No one at the department wanted to destroy this animal but protecting public safety is a first and foremost priority."
The agency's investigation lab will conduct a full forensic inquiry, comparing evidence from the attack site, to confirm it was the same cougar. A necropsy will be done to test for rabies and assess the mountain lion's health before death.
Before their encounter with the mountain lion, wildlife officers had been tracking fresh paw prints believed to be from the same cat that attacked the boy.
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The boy injured in the attack was released from a San Jose hospital Monday afternoon after receiving treatment for puncture wounds and cuts to his head and neck.
The boy and his parents were hiking about 1:15 p.m. Sunday when the cougar appeared and attempted to drag the boy into the brush, authorities said.
The boy's parents were able to fight off the mountain lion and then quickly retreated to their car with their son. But the mountain lion continued to stalk them, which Fish and Wildlife Lt. Patrick Foy was a sign of "extremely unusual behavior."