Child in California mountain lion attack leaves hospital

A 5-year-old boy who was attacked by a mountain lion while hiking in rural Northern California with his mother and grandfather has been released from a hospital, authorities said Wednesday.

The boy had raced ahead of the adults on a trail in San Mateo County, south of San Francisco, Tuesday when the big cat pounced on him and pinned him to the ground, said Capt. Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"The little boy was pretty viciously attacked by a mountain lion that took him to the ground," Foy said.

San Mateo County authorities said the boy had puncture wounds. Foy earlier Wednesday said the child had been bitten, but that after speaking to his mother investigators are no longer sure.

"He was pretty severely scratched. But whether he was bitten or not, I can’t confirm that at this time," he said.

Foy said the boy fought the mountain lion and tried to free himself, but the animal only let go after the child’s mother charged at it.

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"Right before she even made physical contact with the lion, the lion released the little boy," Foy said.

The child was released from Stanford Medical Center Tuesday evening, he said.

The attack was reported shortly before 7 p.m. on Tunitas Creek Road, south of Half Moon Bay. It occurred in a private property in a remote location east of Highway 1, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department said.

Foy said investigators have yet to get access to the property where the attack happened. He said they have collected the boy’s clothing and will check it for traces of saliva that could help them collect a DNA sample of the animal.

Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare. About 20 confirmed attacks have occurred in California in more than a century of record-keeping, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Last September, a 7-year-old boy was bitten by a mountain lion while walking with his father around dusk in a park near Santa Clarita in Southern California. The father scared the animal away, and the child was treated for relatively minor wounds.