Mom fends off mountain lion cub that attacked 5-year-old son: ‘The bravest woman I know,’ says husband
A mountain lion cub in San Mateo County, Calif. met its match when Suzie Trexler saved her 5-year-old son Jack during a surprise attack recently.
The attack happened in the late afternoon on Jan. 31, when Jack was on a regular hike with his mom and grandparents in a mountainous part of the county near his family's farm near Half Moon Bay. It's a hike the family knows well, but on that particular day, they ran into some trouble.
According to his dad, Jay Trexler, Jack got a little too excited and ran ahead of his mom and grandparents — which is when he unintentionally startled a nearby mountain lion cub that snuck up on Jack and began to mangle his head with its sharp paws.
"It happened so fast," Trexler tells Yahoo Life in a written statement. "Fortunately, my wife reacted immediately, charged at the cat, and it ran off."
Suzie carried Jack down the hill and they rushed him to a nearby hospital. He was treated with "lacerations on his face" as well as a "fracture near his eye" and "many other cuts and scratches all over his body." No one else was injured in the attack.
"Jack is an extremely adventurous, brave little boy that is never scared of anything," his aunt, Amie Wagner, tells Yahoo Life. "He is facing this with great courage as he does with everything in his life and we are confident he will keep his adventurous spirit."
Wagner, who's been acting as the "family spokesperson" during this time, says the event has been hard on everyone, especially given that Jack is the baby in the family. "He is the youngest grandchild on our side and adored by our family and everyone that meets him on the farm," she says.
According to local reports, California Fish and Wildlife Capt. Patrick Foy said the mountain cub "took [Jack] to the ground," where he was "struggling in a fight for his life." However, once the cub saw Jack's mother running toward them, it released Jack and ran away.
As reported by KTVU, a Fox affiliate, investigators plan on gathering DNA evidence from the child’s clothing and wounds to search for the mountain lion. If the DNA matches, Foy says law enforcement will make efforts to remove the animal from the wild.
It's important to note that mountain lion attacks on humans are very rare. In fact, the Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that around 20 confirmed attacks have occurred in California in more than a century of record-keeping, per the Sacramento Bee.
Trexler's family has lived on their property for over 12 years, and he calls his wife "the bravest woman I know," saying she "did what she needed to do" to save their son.
"We know the risks of working and hiking in the hills where we live with mountain lions in the area," he says. "We carry bear spray to be safe. Those precautions didn’t matter in this case. Our son Jack is an active boy who loves to run and explore. That said, when we are in the hills, we keep him close by."
Trexler and his wife run Abundant Grace Coastside Worker, a nonprofit in Half Moon Bay offering employment programs and other support to people experiencing homelessness.
The good news? Jack has since been released from the hospital and is now recuperating nicely at home.
"He’s a very resilient kid, and I am hoping he will bounce back quickly," Trexler says. "When he recounted the story to me, he said, 'Dad, a mountain lion tackled me!' The swelling in his eye is going down. This will be helpful to fully assess if he’ll need surgery or not. Also, he had a great night’s rest and has had moments of playfulness amidst periods of rest and pain management."
While the event has been traumatic, Trexler doesn't want it to deter others from enjoying the great outdoors. "When he is absolutely ready," the family plans on taking Jack hiking again, "because that is what we do," he explains.
"We are an outdoor-loving family, and this experience will not take that away from us," says Trexler. "I think it’s important to not be afraid of mountain lions but to take care and be alert when you are in their habitat. Even though it doesn’t happen often, things like this can happen in an instant. You have to respect big animals that are capable of hurting you or your loved ones. We are grateful the cat wasn’t bigger and that it didn’t bite our son because it would have been a different story."
He continues: "We are going to help our son recover and then go live our life to the fullest."
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