SAN FRANCISCO – Wildlife officials in Northern California shot and killed a mountain lion Wednesday, saying they are virtually certain it is the one that attacked a 6-year-old boy along a hiking trail three days earlier.
The 65-pound male mountain lion was shot high in a tree near the trail in the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino where the boy was attacked and wounded, California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Patrick Foy said. It will take DNA testing to determine if it is the cat the department has been tracking for days.
"I think it's very, very highly likely, but we can't put a 100 percent stamp on it until we get the DNA," Foy said.
Foy said the department had hoped to trap the mountain lion without having to kill it. But the dogs and search team trapped it in a tree about 70 feet high, where if they had tried to dart and capture it, it would have died in the fall.
"The conditions made it really not a viable option," Foy said.
The likelihood that it was the mountain lion they were looking for -- it was found 130 yards from the spot where the boy was attacked -- made the decision easier, he said.
"They were so close to the attack site," Foy said, adding that the cat had acted aggressively when it was spotted. "We figured we'd better get it in hand."
The cat will be taken to Sacramento for DNA testing, and the department will also make a priority of testing it for rabies, Foy said.
Biologists had set several traps near the Picchetti Ranch Zinfandel Trail in hopes of capturing the mountain lion, and two search teams had scoured the series of trails looking for it.
Officials said the injured boy was released from the hospital on Monday, a day after suffering bite wounds and scratches on his head and neck while hiking with his family and others. His name has not been released.
The boy's father told investigators his son was about 10 feet ahead of the group when the cougar appeared from nowhere and attacked him.