Trailhead Closed, Investigation Continues in Possible Wild Animal Attack in Sandia Mountains
SANDIA PARK — The U.S. Forest Service has closed the Balsam Glade Nature Trail and campground in the Sandia Mountains while Department of Game and Fish officers continue to investigate Saturday’s apparent attack of a 5-year-old boy by a wild animal.
The attack occurred approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday on a hiking trail. An animal grabbed the young hiker by the head and carried him off the trail into the forest. The child’s father followed the animal into the brush, jumped on it and the animal dropped the child and ran away.
The young hiker was airlifted to UNM hospital where he remained in satisfactory condition Monday morning. The young hiker and his father identified the animal as a mountain lion from pictures shown to them by the investigating officer.
Monday, Department officers and wildlife biologists were searching the area for evidence that would identify the animal involved in the attack. Tracking dogs specifically trained to find mountain lions were unable to find a scent Sunday, despite near ideal tracking conditions. The dogs were in the area again Monday morning. Animals known to use the area include mountain lions, bobcats, bears, coyotes and feral dogs.
Attacks by bears and cougars on humans are extremely rare in New Mexico, but have resulted in deaths. A mountain lion attacked and killed an 8-year-old boy in 1974 in Espanola. An elderly woman was killed and partially eaten by a black bear in August of 2001.
Last week, a mountain lion killed a poodle in Las Cruces. Game Department officers set a trap for the lion but abandoned the trapping efforts when no trace of the lion was found several days after the attack.
The Department of Game and Fish urges any individual attacked by a bear or lion to fight back, using any available objects. Victims are encouraged to strike back by hitting the animal in the nose or eyes.
More information about how to behave when encountering wild animals is on the Department of Game and Fish website, www.wildlife.state.nm.us.