By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Game wardens and search hounds combed steep, wooded canyons and ravines for a third day near California's Silicon Valley on Tuesday, looking for a mountain lion that injured a 6-year-old boy, but the cat has so far evaded trackers, wildlife officials said.
The boy was out hiking a trail with family and friends in a densely wooded preserve adjacent to a winery, just west of the town of Cupertino, when a mountain lion pounced on him and tried to drag him away, his parents told officials.
The boy's father and another man in the group rushed the cat shouting at the animal, and the cougar retreated into the woods. The boy was left with bite wounds and scratches to his upper body, head and neck, and was hospitalized following the attack.
Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the boy has since been released and was home with his family, who officials have not publicly identified.
A team of sheriff's deputies, game wardens and a tracker with dogs immediately mounted a search for the lion, which resumed after daybreak on Monday and was extended into Tuesday with the addition of a second tracking crew, Macintyre said.
She said motion-sensitive cameras also were being been set up in the vicinity, along with several live cage traps.
DNA from cougar saliva samples taken from the victim's clothing was being analyzed on Tuesday to determine the mountain lion's gender, which could help searchers identify the cat.
If the animal is captured and its DNA matches the saliva samples, the lion will be killed in the interest of public safety, officials said.
By late Tuesday afternoon, there was no word from search teams on any sign of a mountain lion, except for some paw prints that were found in the area, Macintyre said.
"The cat could be 25 miles away by now," she said. "We're certainly putting every resource we can into finding this animal."
The search for another mountain lion that mauled a man in his sleeping bag about two years ago ended after six days with the cougar never found, Macintyre said.
Mountain lions are solitary, elusive creatures that tend to avoid people, and attacks on humans are fairly rare. Sunday's incident marked the 14th documented attack in California dating back to March of 1986. Only three were fatal.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler)