By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - A mountain lion believed to have attacked and injured a 6-year-old boy near California's Silicon Valley has been shot to death in a tree not far from the scene after a three-day hunt, state wildlife officials said.
Experts will conduct a necropsy on the 65-pound male cougar to verify it was responsible for the attack on Sunday that sent the boy to a local hospital with bite wounds and scratches to his upper body, head and neck, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement on Wednesday.
The boy was hiking on a trail on Sunday with family and friends in a densely wooded preserve adjacent to a winery, just west of the town of Cupertino, when the 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 shouting at the animal, and it retreated into the woods.
Wildlife experts spent three days tracking it before it was found 130 yards away and 70 feet up a tree, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said. Officials said tranquilizing the cat was "not an option" and it would have been killed from the fall from the tree in any event.
"The cat displayed unusually aggressive behavior while treed, crouching and fixating on a wildlife officer," the statement said. "The fact that it was so close to the attack site, coupled with the territorial behavior, likely indicates that this was a local lion probably involved in the incident as opposed to one that was passing through the area."
Officials said no one at the department wanted to kill the mountain lion but that it was not considered eligible for relocation because it had attacked a person.
The boy, who has not been named, has since been released from the hospital and is recovering from his wounds.
An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions live in California, according to the department.
The cats are solitary, elusive creatures that tend to avoid people. Attacks on humans are rare. Sunday's incident marked the 14th documented attack in California dating back to March 1986. Only three were fatal.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Will Dunham)