By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A mountain lion that killed a family's dog and clawed a young boy near Boise, Idaho, has been killed by Idaho wildlife officers, authorities said on Friday.
The 10-year-old boy and his father came face-to-face with the cougar while out on Thursday night searching their rural subdivision northeast of the state capital for their missing pet, Idaho Fish and Game Department officials said.
Officers said the boy panicked and ran, triggering the lion's chase response. The boy stumbled, and the cat swiped him with its front paw, scratching the child on the arm and hand. The boy's father scared the cougar away by firing his handgun.
Idaho conservation officers used tracking dogs to corner the female mountain lion, found guarding the dog it had killed earlier, and they gunned down the cougar with a rifle and pistols, authorities said.
Wildlife officials said the cougar was 18 months old and weighed roughly 50 pounds.
Matt O'Connell, senior conservation officer with Fish and Game, said the incident marked only the second occasion ever recorded in Idaho in which a mountain lion injured a person. The other case involved a 12-year-old boy on the Salmon River in the early 1990s.
"It is not unusual for young lions to get into trouble after they have left the protection of their mother and are trying to learn to survive on their own," O'Connell said in a statement.
Officials said it was protocol to kill lions that have made physical contact with humans, even though Thursday night's attack on the boy caused only minor wounds.
The mountain lion, hunted as a big-game animal in Idaho, is the largest cat in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Cougars prefer rugged, sparsely populated mountainous areas, with their numbers highest in Western states, according to researchers at Idaho State University.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Bohan)