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Mountain lion euthanized after attacking 6-year-old girl on hiking trail

A mountain lion that recently attacked a 6-year-old girl on a Santa Clara County trail near Cupertino has been located and euthanized, wildlife officials confirmed this week.

The female cougar — estimated to be 2 to 4 years old and weighing 60 to 70 pounds — was found in a tree Wednesday afternoon after a three-day search, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso.

Wildlife officials sedated the mountain lion and tested its DNA to confirm it was the one involved in Sunday’s attack at the Rancho San Antonio County Park and Open Space Preserve, which left a child with minor injuries.

After the genetic profile came back as a match, Department of Fish and Wildlife officials put the animal down.

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The department “is actively engaged in mountain lion conservation across the state,” Traverso wrote in a statement Thursday. “However, public safety is a top priority. We made the decision to euthanize the lion because it was confirmed to have attacked a human.”

The girl and nine other people were walking in a brushy area where the trail narrows on the Wildcat Loop about 10 a.m. Sunday when the mountain lion attacked, said Korrine Skinner, public affairs manager for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Skinner said one of the adults shoved the large cat while others scared it off. The girl was treated for small cuts at the scene.

Although the attack was the state’s second in as many months — a mountain lion was killed in January after it attacked a 3-year-old boy at a park in Orange County — officials stress that such encounters are rare.

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“The probability of being attacked by a mountain lion remains very low,” Traverso said. “In the entire state of California, which has approximately 40 million people, and a population estimate of 4,000 [to] 6,000 lions, there have only been 17 verified attacks since 1986.”

Before this year, there have been three verified mountain lion attacks on humans since 2012, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The last fatal mauling was in 2004, when a cougar killed 35-year-old cyclist Mark Reynolds in Orange County’s Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.

A mountain lion was also recently killed in the Santa Monica Mountains under a state law that allows lethal action if livestock or pets are attacked or if other deterrents have failed.

The death of that animal, known as P-56, prompted calls to end the permitted killing of the big cats.

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Times staff writer Priscella Vega contributed to this report.


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