A mountain lion attacked a toddler in an Orange County, CA park

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*Trigger Warning* This story is brutal and involves harm to a child but know that the child is okay. On Monday, a family of six were walking in a Lake Forest park when a mountain lion grabbed their three-year-old son by the neck and began to drag him off. Fortunately, his quick thinking father threw a backpack at the lion that diverted the cat’s attention and the family was able to get the child to safety as the mountain lion took off up a tree with the backpack.

A 3-year-old child was attacked by a mountain lion in Lake Forest Monday and the animal was located and euthanized, the Orange County Fire Authority said.

The attack took place around 4:17 p.m. at Whiting Ranch Park, officials said.

A family of six was walking when the mountain lion came and grabbed the 3-year-old by the neck and dragged away, Tony Bommarito of the OCFA said.

The father in the family threw a backpack at the mountain lion, who dropped the boy and picked up the backpack before going up a tree, Bommarito said.

[From NBC Los Angeles]

None of the photos in this post are of the actual mountain lion or child. I can’t get my mind off the ‘what if’ scenario if the backpack had not worked and it’s giving me a pit in my stomach. Mountain lions are not uncommon in California parks. Occasionally a hiker might see one in the distance, but the lion is usually fully aware of where the hiker is and leaves them alone. Hopefully, the hiker will be respectful enough to do the same. Currently, we are having a big problem with a lot of wildlife in our residential areas. Small pets are in big danger from coyotes across the state. I stopped letting my kids walk my dog when my Pomeranian was still alive because coyotes were snatching small doggos off leashes and I didn’t want to put anyone in danger. As you know, my cat fell victim to a coyote. Drought and wildfires have destroyed their habitats and made food sources scarce so they’re coming from the hills to feed where they can. Remember being assured growing up that a fatal wolf attack had never been recorded in North America? That all changed in 2005 when a young man was killed in Saskatchewan. Following that, wolves killed a jogger in Alaska in 2010. It’s scary. So is a child, walking with his folks in an established park, in broad daylight, being grabbed by a mountain lion. And of course the parks and game had to euthanize the cat, but environmentalists have proven mountain lions are at the extinction vortex and are currently petitioning to get them protected.

There are multiple factors leading to wild animals coming into human space. Climate change is a factor, given the toll it’s taking on their habitats. This is further compromised by people building into the animals’ hunting grounds. Much of it also has to do with animals losing their fear of humans. Not just being around them but humans providing food. So let me put on my park ranger hat and remind everyone that wild animals are wild and not pets. Please do not approach or feed them and please clean up anything you brought with you when you leave.

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Photo credit: Pixaby and Brett Sayles/Pixels

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62 Responses to “A mountain lion attacked a toddler in an Orange County, CA park”

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  1. Carobell says:

    I live nowhere near California, but the idea that a mountain lion treated a group of humans like any other group of prey animals and tried to pick off the smallest, weakest one is unsettling. I don’t think we are used to having to live in that concept, that we are just prey to these animals.

    • Agirlandherdog says:

      Humans have spent centuries treating every other species on this planet as prey. Obviously, I’m glad the child will be okay, but as many comments downstream have shown, people have very little respect for animals in the wild because we’ve always been taught that humans are at the top of the food chain. We’ve had entire entertainment industries built around putting wild animals in chains. Sadly, I believe it’s entirely too late to roll back the damage we’ve done and restore any kind of balance.

  2. Bebe says:

    My family lives in California and they take my nephews up to parks in the hills all the time. Wow. A good reminder to be extra cautious. Glad the toddler is okay!

    • Coco says:

      California here as well and we do a lot of hiking with our 3 year old and 7 month old. This terrifies me and I hope the family is ok. I’m so sorry for the mountain lion who possibly had young offspring that are now without their parent and food source. The Oakland Zoo has a California Trails exhibit with mountain lions and they are scary up close. All muscle. Whenever I go hiking or backpacking I make a mental note of what to do if we come across a bear or mountain lion, etc.

  3. Aang says:

    How traumatic. I hope the kid is so young that he forgets about it eventually. I also feel sorry for the mountain lion. Humans have ruined this entire planet.

    • Sim says:

      We have little respect for our own kind, what to say about other (perceived as lesser) species or this planet :(

  4. helonearth says:

    Its not wild animals coming into human spaces, its humans building into animal territory and then killing the animals when attacked.

    I hope mountain lions become a protected species and their habitat is then also protected.

    • Eliza_ says:

      I agree. Also it’s winter. Food supply is less. She might still have a cub from spring and splitting food and hungry. If it’s daytime, not traditional hunting time – it is hungry you can bet. You have to be aware with children and pets of any threat outdoors – other animals, people, cars, whatever. Especially in a camping site for wild animals. We have to in our backyard, and it’s the suburbs – coyotes, bobcats etc.

    • Amelie says:

      Well it’s a bit of both I think of animals and humans encroaching on each other’s spaces. I grew up in the same town my mother grew up in Westchester County, NY. In the 60s and 70s when she was growing up, she assures me there were no deer and no coyotes around. Now it’s possible they were around and she just didn’t know but I feel like if people were sighting deer and coyotes people would have been talking about it back then. Westchester County is a large county and the northern part is fairly woodsy, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about bigger wildlife roaming around up there. But she grew up in southern Westchester along the coast and never experienced super close encounters with wildlife like with this mountain lion. It wasn’t until she moved back to her hometown in 1992 now married and with two toddlers did the deer and coyotes make an appearance. And the town had surely built some new houses here and there but nothing ridiculous (my hometown tends to tear down “outdated” older homes and to rebuild cookie cutter McMansions, it’s what happened to my childhood home once my parents sold it).

      Look when coyotes are seen roaming around Central Park in Manhattan, you have to wonder just how desperate they are for prey (which as far as I know was not a thing for most of the 20th century!): https://nypost.com/2019/06/29/coyote-sightings-in-nyc-are-surging-and-mostly-in-manhattan/

      • Veronica S. says:

        I’d argue all encroachment is human since we’re the only species that has the technology to bypass traditional population balance controls. Animals stay in a territory until resources demand otherwise. Our actions – whether it’s expanding cities and suburbs, demolishing environments like forest, or general climate change – are what are forcing them out of traditional habitats and into human civilized areas. We can’t act surprised that as we do what’s necessary to survive, other species are doing the same.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        @Veronica S – Exactly

      • Eliza_ says:

        @amelie there was also a lot of hunting allowed back in the day that now is not allowed. Most of the country has been trying to bring back wild life natural to the area.

    • Courtney says:

      When an animal starts attacking small children, f*ck that animal.

      • amilou says:

        When humans have taken over every bit of this earth with no respect or understanding for the other creatures that inhabit it, f*ck those humans.

      • Courtney says:

        yeah, f*ck a 3 year old that could’ve died? And “humans” is a pretty big group. We’re not all responsible for the actions of super rich developers who buy off zoning committees.

      • Kristen says:

        Um… no. Mountain lions don’t have the capacity to make moral judgments – it wasn’t choosing to eat a child out of lack of good character. Obviously no one wants a child to get hurt, but it’s extremely selfish and shortsighted of humans to penalize a wild animal for simply behaving like a wild animal.

      • Sim says:

        If you f*ck over an animal you are f*cked yourself. Chain of life does exists and we are all depending on each other. Like, if something like bees go extinct, we are all doomed.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I totally agree that it is humans going into the animals space, not the other way around.

      Additionally, this needs more context:
      “So is a child, walking with his folks in an established park,…”

      It is a WILDERNESS PARK. This wasn’t a playground situation. This was a family going into a 2500 acre park where wildlife live.

      The family was very kind about the lion. The mother said, ““We do not fault this magnificent creature for its instinctive behavior,”.

    • Lady2Lazy says:

      I don’t think it was right to euthanize the mountain lion as they were in a state park and in the territory of the mountain lion, not in their own suburbia. Why should the mountain lion pay the price for the encroachment of humans? I hope that they place the mountain lion and all other species on the brink of extinction since we are decimating their habitat for our own selfish reasons.

  5. Lightpurple says:

    A cousin is a forest ranger in Idaho and she has been stalked by mountain lions several times. We saw one while visiting her, sunning itself on a rock across the river from us. We quickly and quietly got back into our car as fast as we could. Traveling through our national parks, I have seen magnificent creatures and incredibly stupid humans. The wilderness is not an amusement park. Wild animals are just that: wild. Don’t pose your five year old next to that bison. Don’t run up to pat the elk. Don’t get out of your car to film the wolves. Don’t leave food in your car – bears know “Igloo” or “Rubbermaid” means yummy food inside and they will rip the door right off your car.

    • Gutterflower says:

      I used to live in Banff, and one during a drive up to Jasper we passed about 15 elk lying on a grassy hill along the road and SO MANY tourists were out taking pictures right beside them, letting their kids touch them and grab their antlers. I get it’s an amazing experience, but such little respect for wildlife and nature.

    • Sim says:

      Uh, these kind of news are always so triggering. And the animal is always dead by force at the end.
      People like to think of themselves being at the top, but they are at the bottom without artificial tools.

  6. BabyYoda says:

    If the cat intended to kill the child right off he would have. Likely the cat was dehydrated and sluggish. We create horrid mythology around these animals- as humans we are VISITORS

    • Sim says:

      But no, it could not kill instantly in any circumstances. Cats always attack from the behind, that neck (nape?) area. And to think about it, that cat most likely was already sick and on a verge of death if it decided to go after that huge group of people. These events are very rare and always happen when a human is alone and unaware.

  7. Noodle says:

    I live In Orange County, very close to where this attack took place. We get a LOT of coyotes running through our neighborhoods, and about four years ago, they took out most of our neighborhood cats. We were always told to bring animals in at night and not let them out until a couple of hours after sunrise because that’s when the coyotes hunt; now though, we see coyotes in the park in the middle of the day. It’s scary. I can’t imagine how terrifying it was for this poor child and family; I’m thankful the child is okay.

    • Meeee says:

      Yeah, we have been seeing coyotes in central Phoenix, in the last few years. They’re looking for water and food…small pets are easy targets.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      The thing about cats…domestic cats kill something like 3 BILLION birds in the US every year, just for fun. I don’t think domestic cats should be allowed to roam around outside.

  8. Brooke says:

    You don’t have a problem with animals in your “residential area.” The problem is you are now living in the area that used to be these animals homes. For decades, we have been building and expanding without even thinking twice about the destruction we are causing. The droughts and the wildfires aren’t to blame for all this. We are.

    I grew up in south Florida. This used to be such a beautiful area, where you could see wildlife in its natural environment. Now we see it dead on the side of the road. It makes me sad to think of all the damage we have done even in the thirty-odd years I have been alive. God knows what it’s going to look like for my kids.

    • Allergy says:

      We are constantly fighting to keep our city not becoming filled with high rises and luxury malls and whatever bull. It’s infuriating how the developers just push through their plans, nearly secretly, razing cute old houses. I’m livid most of the time.
      Glad the toddler is ok, but humans are a huge problem for this planet.

    • Courtney says:

      that’s not true in all cases. Animals are encroaching on areas that have been residential for decades.

      • Brooke says:

        They are encroaching because they have been pushed out of their habitats. It really doesn’t matter if your neighborhood has been established for decades, all of this still belonged to them first!

      • Jiji says:

        Okay we get it Courtney, you hate animals.

  9. Becklu says:

    What a horrible story. I’m so glad the father’s planned worked and that no one was hurt. I can’t imagine how scary that would be

  10. Jen d. says:

    I live in the east coast of Canada, and a few years ago a young woman was killed by coyotes, which was unheard of beforehand. Coyotes in the east have been breeding with wolves and dogs, making them bigger, more pack oriented, and less afraid of humans. I live in a wooded area and they’re on my property every night. They’re basically wolves. I can hear them howling at times, and when I walk my dog the next morning I can see their scat everywhere.

    The problem with coyotes is humans (when is it not humans?). People have responded to coyotes by hunting them, but that only makes their populations grow because they have something called compensetory reproduction. But ppl in the area don’t believe it, so they keep putting out bounties on pelts, but aren’t doing real things to get rid of them, like limit their food sources by disposing of dead livestock right away, properly disposing of garbage, and even doing insanely stupid things like purposely feeding them because they remind them of dogs.

  11. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    This makes me sad on many levels. It’s happening everywhere. Coyotes are always disappearing small cats and dogs, etc. where I live. I had to submit a byline a few years ago regarding this, we’re simply bulldozing wildlife habitats. End of story. In essence, this is a part of a destructive downward spiral that will only escalate exponentially over time. Now couple man’s encroaching with climate change fallout and we’re screwed. Species extinctions, leveling storms, never-ending fires…animals have no chance. Neither do humans really, but we might last a tiny bit longer. So while a toddler being dragged off by a mountain lion is horrifying, the lion being ‘put down’ doesn’t give this story a happy ending.

    • Allergy says:

      So agree with you about everything.

    • Rosa says:

      I so agree. A toddler being killed is not a story anyone wants to hear, but the lion being put down is also tragic especially in light of the environmental disasters taking place everywhere at the moment.

  12. EMc says:

    Oh Hecate, so sorry about your cat. This is my biggest fear. I moved to a rural part of Virginia to get away from the city and have seen coyotes in my back yard, and we hear them often. It’s my biggest fear for my children and 10 pound dog. I am so careful but it makes me not want another pet after we lose our fur baby..

  13. Nikki* says:

    I know compared to all these stories mine sounds innocuous, but deer have taken over many suburbs in the Northeast, and the rate of Lyme’s disease skyrocketing is in direct correlation. So I’m terrified if I see deer in backyards: my husband, son, and I have all had Lyme’s, and my son sustained permanent damage. It’s true that we have taken over the deer’s natural habitat, but we have also killed most of their natural predators in the Northeast, so without natural culling, they are more numerous than in the 1920′s.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Yep. It’s a major problem in my state, too. It’s one of the reasons the state tends to be a little looser on gun restrictions for hunters because they want you out there doing some “natural” culling of your own.

    • megs283 says:

      Yes, the anxiety I have during “tick season” (which is now March-December, it seems like) is so high. Nevermind the mosquitos and EEE last summer. :-(

      • Emilia says:

        I’ve lived in CT most of my life and definitely noticed that the past couple years there really hasn’t been a tick-free time of year anymore. As a kid we never worried about checking for ticks in January but just last week I was pulling 2 off my dog. It’s super concerning because there are so many tick diseases and my dog almost died after contracting anaplasmosis a couple years ago.

    • GreenTurtle says:

      Yes! I’m in the mid-Atlantic and there are so many deer. They just wander around residential areas. I can’t say how many times I’ve happened upon them in front yards or (In the middle of) back roads

    • Pineapple says:

      Guys, ticks and so, so, so many other nuisances weren’t issues decades ago, think poison ivy. Here in Canada we no longer get submerged in minus 20 or 30 weather for weeks on end. It is happening everywhere in Canada because of climate change. Things like ticks, or any living things that would perish in those temperatures … they are not perishing anymore. Poison ivy, Emerald Ash Borer, ticks. There things are here in greater numbers because it is warmer. It is all, and I mean ALL related to climate change and the environment. And most average, adult humans will realize once it is too late.

  14. Amelie says:

    This is so scary and I’m so glad the kid is okay and the father acted fast! Back in 2010 two coyotes attacked two small children in separate incidents within the span of a few days in my hometown and it was the talk of the town all summer long. The kids were fine and in both instances the coyotes were chased off by the parents. The town got a temporary hunting license to shoot and kill any coyote and the police department got flooded with calls anytime a coyote was spotted. It was scary since at the time I had a bichon frise and was on high alert every night I had to take our dog out for his last potty break of the day as coyotes had killed a few small dogs over the years in the area (sorry Hecate to hear about your cat, that is devastating). I always think of the poor woman in Australia who for years was suspected of killing her own baby in the bush when it turns out she was right all along when she said the dingo ate her baby which became a punchline over the years.

    I didn’t actually see a coyote though until a few years later in my aunt’s backyard one night during a family gathering and I just saw another one for the second time recently in broad daylight. However what really surprised me I think was the fox I saw a few weeks ago early one morning trotting behind my house. I had never seen a fox before in person and I yelped in surprise because he was HUGE. I didn’t realize how big foxes could get!! It was bigger than a coyote I was so shocked.

  15. Phyll says:

    We were just hiking in a small-ish coastal central California park over the weekend and a baby mountain lion crossed our path! It was terrifying because, even though it was still a young one, it’s body was knee-high and it looked so intense and strong! We read later that a cub stays with its mother for nearly 18 months and felt like she had crossed the trail shortly before baby did 😱

  16. megs283 says:

    Yikes. Did you guys hear about the dad who suffocated a coyote this week? He was taking a walk with his family and the coyote grabbed the hood of his two year old. He and his wife kicked and punched the coyote – it let go of their son but was still attacking.

    • Phyll says:

      Wow no I didn’t, but I’ve cut out most news from my life (sanity). We have a ton of deer where we live that get pretty aggressive during birthing season and the conversation usually pops up about whether or not we could fight a deer if we had to. It’s always pretty ridiculous, but I feel like knowing how to fight off a wild animal is a good life skill.

    • ME says:

      Saw this story on the news yesterday. The dad got bit and scratched. Turned out the coyote had rabbies !

  17. Best Casey says:

    I think it’s important to clarify that this isn’t a typical suburban park. Whiting Ranch Park is actually called Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. It’s 2,500 acres full of trails and hiking paths, it’s not grass with swing sets. This pretty much the mountain lions natural habitat, not a strange place for it to be.

  18. Ali says:

    We have coyotes, bobcats and black bears in the woods that surround our neighborhood and we are not off in some isolated area. All the houses with cameras catch the wildlife strolling through their yards at night. If you leave your trash container out at night, the bears will come and get it.
    The first time I saw a bear crossing the street I was shocked at how big and fast it was.

  19. zotsioltar says:

    Hung out with my uncle a long time ago… We were loud and driving a couple ATVs.

    Got off to wash my hands after spilling soda over them, uncle had to take a couple pot shots into the brush behind me. My dad was pissed, but it turns out after asking my uncle – there was a cougar creeping up on me and he was trying to scare it off.

    Even in most suburbias foxes and cougars are not uncommon (or that common). So you should still be aware when you are in what was once their territory. We were only in the foothills (mini-mountains).

  20. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    Don’t worry, most exotic animals will go extinct soon. We’ll be left with chickens, cats, pigs, insects, pigeons. All of the “scary” animals like wolves, cougars, tigers, rhinos, polar bears, etc., will be gone. I hope everyone will be happy then, when we can walk wherever we want and not be attacked.

    • Sim says:

      Lol. If they all get extint especially polar bears, we will be gone too and not because of cougar, bear or any other animal attacks. Chickens won’t save ya.

  21. Amber says:

    I live in Orange County. The ‘park’ in question is not a suburban park, it’s like a wilderness center, the mountain lion wasn’t in a developed area. Last August I was in Griffith Park in LA, parked my car, and turned around to see a coyote three feet away from me, standing rather expectantly like a dog waiting for a treat. I could have reached out to pet him, he was so close. He was clearly very used to humans and was not in an aggressive mood, and he ambled behind me, following me for a few paces before giving up, but coyotes can and do get aggressive with people.
    I think it’s unreasonable for us to expect that we can keep wild animals away from our homes. Humans and other animals live alongside one another and are in competition for the same resources. There is always some risk of run-ins like this, but it’s getting worse because of habitat destruction. We are encroaching on THEIR territory, not the other way around. For most of human history, we did not dominate the world as we do now in terms of the sheer land area we have occupied, cleared, or destroyed, or the resources we consume with 8 billion people. The world is fatally out of balance, and it’s our fault.

  22. sammiches says:

    I can’t believe they killed the mountain lion, that is ridiculous.

    It is WELL KNOWN that wild cats WILL, if the opportunity presents itself, try to pick off the smallest/”weakest” member of a group should you cross their path. This is not new behaviour. This is a matter of humans not bothering to learn about their surroundings.

  23. Sim says:

    I’m glad the child is safe. But people just need to walk around in their cities where they effin belong. Now one more animal died unnaturally because of human intervention.

  24. Lipreng says:

    I live near Columbus and a few days ago one of the cops was randomly bitten by a coyote. Coyote sightings are becoming common.