Mountain lion attacks boy: Safety reminders for parents

A mountain lion attacked a young boy in California on Sunday, prompting parents to look again at important safety precautions before taking their kids into wild habitats.

Families that enjoy hiking trails and rambling in the woods may want to review safety guidelines in light of the case of a 6-year-old California boy who is recovering from injuries after being carried off a trail by a mountain lion on Sunday.

At this point, it is unknown how prepared the family of this boy was before taking the Zinfandel Trail in Cupertino, Calif., a trail clearly marked as mountain lion habitat. The animal snatched the little boy who was attacked from behind while separated from his family by a short distance, according to a video by KTVU in Oakland, Ca.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the boy is recovering from puncture wounds and scratches from the attack which occurred about at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday on the trail in an open space preserve adjacent to the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino.

As the mom of four sons married to a husband whose idea of the perfect weekend includes a multi-mile nature trail hike, I have spent the last 20 years learning how to stay hydrated and safe from both wild animals and the hunters pursuing them in public park systems.

I once wrote a story for The New York Times about the unsettling experience of wearing “just shoot me brown” while hiking in the woods with our kids and encountering a truckload of OSHA orange-wearing hunters who taught us about how easily we could be mistaken for deer. 

Hiking trails marked as wildlife habitats or designated hunting areas can be dangerous, doubly so with young children, but there are many resources that can help us better prepare.

The East Bay Parks system in California offers some valuable safety information on its website for parents taking children into wildlife habitats anywhere.

The site advises parents on everything from wearing long, light-colored clothing to help keep deer ticks off of the family, to coping with rattlesnake bites and large predators.

“Coyote, bobcats, deer, elk, wild pigs, and mountain lions are occasionally spotted in the parks. Their normal reaction is to run away,” according to the site.

The site also advises parents to keep young children within sight and reach of parents or a “buddy.”

In the a KTVU news video about the attack, authorities add that they are using hounds to track-down and kill the mountain lion "in the interest of public safety." DNA samples from the lion's saliva on the boy's torn clothing will be used in order to positively identify the animal when captured.

At this point I am sad for both the boy and the mountain lion.

If the animal were rabid or rampaging in the streets of a suburban neighborhood instead of doing what comes naturally, fairly deep within its own natural habitat in an area with signs marking it as such, I would feel differently.

I called the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for their view.

“Obviously we are all incredibly relieved that this little boy survived the attack,” said PETA Campaign Specialist Ashley Byrne in a phone conversation from her office in New York City. “We really wish there were another way to handle this because the mountain lion will be killed for doing what mountain lions do in a habitat that was well marked. The animal’s habitat and food supply are vanishing and the incident occurred in that small remaining space left to it. It just doesn’t make sense to kill it for that.”

What happened to this child is of course a parental nightmare.

Yet, I also worry that we are making it worse with this planned killing of an animal for doing what comes naturally, in its own home.

The message this kind of reaction sends to kids doesn’t seem like one coming from a place of justice or public safety, but more fear and revenge.

While accidents happen and there are rogue elements in nature we can’t hope to control, there are ways to be safer in the wild with our kids.

It’s called “wildlife” because it’s untamed and unpredictable.

As in so many other adventures we undertake with our kids, we want to maintain the spirit of adventure, while remaining aware of the wild animals that call the outdoors home.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to