Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rabid Mountain Lion Attacks Boy, Gets Shot

Tonto National Forest, Arizona

From the March 11, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle:

A rabid mountain lion was shot to death after attacking a 10-year-old boy as he and his family celebrated his birthday in a national forest near Phoenix, officials said.

Paul John Schalow of El Mirage, Ariz., suffered minor scratches on his back but wasn't seriously injured during Saturday's attack in a sparsely populated area in the Tonto National Forest, said Randy Babb, a biologist with the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

Paul said he and his cousin were playing in the sand when the mountain lion came up.

"It just placed its paw on me, and it bites my head," Paul told KSAZ-TV Monday. "It scratches my back.

"I just stayed calm. I like animals but I know this one would probably try to kill me."

Paul will have to undergo a series of shots after being exposed to rabies, Babb said. Game officials are also recommending the shots for other people who touched the lion.

Babb said the attack occurred while the boy and his family were taking a break from riding all-terrain vehicles. He said while the animal tried to bite Paul's head, it didn't actually do it, only slightly clawing the boy's back.

A member of the group shot the lion twice, killing it, Babb said. He didn't know what kind of weapon was used.

UPDATE: Another version of the story appears in the March 10, 2008 Arizona Republic:
An El Mirage boy celebrating his 10th birthday with his family at an Arizona national forest was attacked by a rabid mountain lion Saturday afternoon.

The boy's uncle shot the animal in time for the boy to escape with only minor scratches on his back.

The victim, Paul John Schalow, and family members who were exposed to the infected lion will start a series of post-exposure rabies shots as a health precaution, said Randy Babb, a biologist with the Arizona Game & Fish Department.


Paul and his family told officials they were taking a lunch break after riding their ATVs near Bloody Basin Road and Sheep Bridge. Newton Smith said two of his grandkids, Paul, 10, and Brittany, 9, were playing at a campsite when a mountain lion walked in between them. The four remaining family members stood about 10 feet from the lion.

Smith said the lion scratched Paul on his shoulder, drawing blood. The rabid animal then opened its mouth and put its teeth on Paul's head. The lion finally stepped away from the boy and looked at him while opening his mouth.

Paul's uncle reportedly shot the lion, which was an older female, loaded it in the family's truck and took it to the family's home in El Mirage.

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