A five-year-old boy has been attacked by a mountain lion while hiking with his mother and grandfather in rural Northern California.
He had raced ahead of the adults on a trail in San Mateo County, south of San Francisco, when the big cat pounced on him and pinned him to the ground, said Capt Patrick Foy from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The little boy was pretty viciously attacked by a mountain lion that took him to the ground,” he said.
The youngster had puncture wounds, authorities said.
Mr Foy said: “He was pretty severely scratched but whether he was bitten or not, I can’t confirm that at this time.”
The boy fought the animal and tried to free himself but the lion only let go when charged by the child’s mother.
“Right before she even made physical contact with the lion, the lion released the little boy,” Mr Foy said.
The boy has been released from Stanford Medical Centre, he added.
The attack was reported shortly before 7pm on Tuesday in Tunitas Creek Road, south of Half Moon Bay.
It happened on private property in a remote location east of Highway 1, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department said.
Mr Foy said investigators have yet to get to where the attack happened.
They have collected the boy’s clothing and will check it for traces of saliva, which could help them collect a DNA sample of the animal, he said.
Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, with about 20 confirmed attacks in California in over a century of record-keeping, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Last September, a seven-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.