Mountain lion killed after boy attacked in Rancho Peñasquitos canyon

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SAN DIEGO -- Wildlife officers killed a mountain lion Tuesday after a 4-year-old boy was attacked in a Rancho Peñasquitos canyon the previous day.

The attack happened around 2:25 p.m. Monday near Park Village and Mannix roads, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. The child was taken to Rady Children's Hospital to be treated for a non-life-threatening injury.

Wildlife officers investigating the scene following the attack were approached by a mountain lion who displayed no fear of them, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said. Officers immediately killed the adult female mountain lion to ensure public safety. Officials said the mountain lion was likely a lone animal whose home range included the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.

Samples of the boy's clothing and the mountain lion's carcass were collected and sent to wild forensics specialists to confirm if the same big cat was responsible for the boy's attack. The state agency is likely to receive confirmation within days. Until then, community trails within the preserve will remain closed.

"We do not relocate them because that animal will be a problem somewhere else," Lieutenant Scott Bringman said during a news conference Tuesday morning.

The hospital released an update Tuesday on the boy's recovery.

"The 4-year-old boy is in good condition, recovering well from his injuries and expected to be released from the hospital soon," Media Relations Officer Carlos F. Delgado said. "The family requests privacy at this time. No further updates will be available."

“We just heard yesterday that this boy was attacked, and we were so upset because nothing had been done," said Kristyn Pellecchia, a San Diego mother who said a lion came up to her in the same area just two weeks earlier on Mother's Day.

"My daughter stopped to get something out of her shoe. She was crouched down. As I turn around, a mountain lion came out of the grass headed for her, and I screamed my husband's name."

Pellecchia said her husband yelled and scared the lion off. She said they told a city park ranger what happened.

“When I told him the story, he said 'Oh, no that’s not a sighting that’s very threatening and scary and we’re going to have a meeting with the city.'”

However, she claims she never heard back. Instead reached out once again, and said she was told there was little the city could do except place warning signs around the trail.

In an email sent to FOX5, a spokesperson for the city of San Diego sent a response writing in part:

The incident referenced on Mother’s Day initiated a number of responses from park ranger staff since mountain lion sightings are so infrequent.  City ranger staff worked with County rangers to increase the amount of signage along trails notifying the public to be aware of possible mountain lion sightings. Staff also notified the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of the sighting since they serve as the responding department in the event any further issues regarding public interactions with mountain lions occur. 

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday, a spokesperson for DFW said they didn't recall getting notified about the sighting.

"It just depends on what the animal did," said Lt. Bringman with DFW.
"If it was aggressive or not acting in its normal behavior, we would have definitely investigated it.”

In light of public safety concerns, Bringman recommended people avoid trails surrounded by wildlife in the early mornings and late afternoons. Individuals should also avoid traveling on the trails alone, Bringman said.

"If you see any sort of animal, don't run," Bringman said. "Act as big as you can. Throw rocks. Yell at it."

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