SAN FRANCISCO — Wildlife officials said Thursday that it could take up to two days of testing to determine if they shot and killed the same mountain lion that attacked and injured a 6-year-old boy on a Northern California hiking trail.
Rabies testing could be finished sometime Thursday, while DNA results could be available as early as Friday, said Lt. Patrick Foy, a California Fish and Wildlife spokesman. Officials have DNA from saliva and bite marks the big cat left on the boy and his clothing, and they also will check under its claws.
After four days of scouring rugged terrain, search crews and dogs found and chased the mountain lion up a 70-foot-high tree Wednesday before fatally shooting it on a trail near the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino.
Officials believe it has the right animal based on its description, its aggression toward the crew and close proximity to the spot of Sunday’s attack.
“We’re pretty confident, otherwise we wouldn’t have killed it,” Foy said. “It’s highly likely, but we can’t be 100 percent certain until we get the DNA.”
Wildlife officials defended the decision to kill the 65-pound juvenile mountain lion instead of trying to bring it in alive because it was deemed a threat to public safety.
One wildlife expert said Thursday that it was likely a tough call to kill the animal instead of tranquilizing it.
“We don’t know if this animal had some sort of disease issues that affected its behavior,” said Janet Alexander, an operations director for the nonprofit Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose. “In most situations, we would certainly prefer that nonlethal methods be used to capture an animal. We hope there won’t be any more incidents like this.”
For example, she said a mountain lion was tranquilized by wildlife officials after it scampered through the nearby city of Mountain View in May. It was later released in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The male mountain lion killed this week was difficult to tranquilize and capture while up in a tree and likely would have died in the fall, Foy said.
“The conditions made it really not a viable option,” Foy said. “We figured we’d better get it in hand.”
Officials said the injured boy was released from the hospital 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 mountain lion jumped out of nowhere and mauled him.
Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles.