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By Miriam Raftery

Photos: Waterfall in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, City of San Diego, Mountain lion, California Fish & Game Department

May 27, 2019 (Los Peñasquitos) – A young child has been transported to a hospital with head injuries after being attacked by a mountain lion, or possibly a bobcat, according to the San Diego Fire & Rescue Department.
The attack occurred aound 2:30 p.m. today at the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, just east of the waterfall on a popular hiking trail
Witnesses told 10 News that the boy’s father threw rocks to scare off the big cat.

The boy, whom witnesses estimated at around 4 years of age, was conscious when he left the preserve with paramedics. There are no updates on his condition at this time.
The incident occurred just three days after KUSI reported that a mountain lion in the same preserve had followed a man and his 12 year old son along a trail. According to an account posted on NextDoor,  the father got off his bicycle and waved it over his head, shouting until the lion turned and ran off. 
The California Fish & Game Department advises that if you see a mountain lion, don’t ever run away or turn your back to the lion, which triggers the lion’s predator instinct and makes it likely to attack, believing you are prey.  Do not curl up or play dead, as is advised to avoid bear attacks.  Instead, wave your arms or a hiking stick over your head to look larger,  open a jacket wide, shout and make as much noise as possible.  If an animal acts aggressively, you can throw a rock or other object toward the lion. 
Several thousand mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are estimated to reside in California. Most are elusive and avoid contact with people. The California Fish & Game Department’s website reports that from 1996 to 2014, only 15 verified mountain lion attacks have been documented in California, of which three were fatal. The majority of victims survive cougar attacks, often by fighting back with sticks, rocks, bottles or other items.
Hunting mountain lions is illegal in California. However a mountain lion that is deemed a threat to public safety can be killed by authorities.
Signs warning the public about the presence of mountain lions are posted in the preserve.
Los Peñasquitos (meaning little cliffs) Canyon Preserve lies between Rancho Peñasquitos and Sorrento Hills to the north and Mira Mesa to the south. It stretches approximately 7 miles from the Interstates 5 and 805 merge to just east of Interstate 15. It encompasses some 4,000 acres of both Peñasquitos and Lopez Canyons. The preserve is jointly owned and administered by the City and County of San Diego, according to the preserve’s website.

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A lion suspected in the attack has been killed.

Authorities found tracks nearby and then a lion approached them with no apparent fear, which is not normal, so they killed it.  DNA tests are being done to be sure it's the same one that attacked the child, along with a rabies test. Both should be completed in a few days. It was a female lion, but there were no signs of any cubs.

Wild animals & humans

We inhabit their territory, especially the so called wilderness when hiking or camping and need to realize we are sharing their home. Wild animals can be very protective and sometimes react to a perceived intrusion with physical action. Hunger can cause them to go after humans, especially kids because of their small size. Because this Mountain Lion is stalking and attacking people, it will likely need an intervention. Either extermination, or if possible (and preferred), sedated and moved to another area. Once they exhibit this type of behavior, it likely won't stop because the fear of human encounter is lost. Bears, Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Coyotes, Rattlesnakes, Raccoons, Possums, and many more critters visit the cities at night under the cover of darkness (even daytime) more than we may realize. Be aware. Observe everything as you walk.

There was a report on Brush Fire partyline about a lion

Growling at a mother and kid in that same park about a month ago.  Also a report of a lion startling someone at Mission Trails Regional Park, where it turned out the lion was a mother guarding her own cubs.  That could be the case here -- she may have extra mouths to feed.

Maybe it's learned its lesson having been unsuccessful in its "hunt" but I would be very cautious about hiking in the preserve at Penasquitos for the next few weeks at least, and always be on guard when hiking in lion habitat.  Keep your kids close at hand and perhaps pick a safer place for now.

I recall hiking once in Glacier National Park and being startled by a grizzly bear growl from a thicket just above me on the trail; I looked down and saw fresh tracks of a mother and cub right in front of me on the trail.  Fortunately I didn't become breakfast. 



Unnerving to say the least!

Hope the kid will be alright - at least physically. The emotional scars may last awhile though. The wilderness can be challenging for sure. Eyes wide open everyone.