4-year-old girl attacked by mountain lion at campsite; ‘angels’ protect her

Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, but when they do occur, the target is usually small children

Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, but when they do occur, the target is usually small children. Photo: Courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife

A family camping trip in Idaho turned scary when a mountain lion snatched a 4-year-old girl and attempted to drag her away from the campsite.

Israel and Kera Butt and their three children and extended family were camping near Green Canyon Hot Springs east of Rexburg when the incident occurred around 9 o'clock on Friday night.

"As we were eating dinner, I turned my head and saw the back part of the cat," Kera told EastIdahoNews.com. "I saw it move and I told everyone, 'I just saw a cat.'"

Other family members didn't believe her. Israel said they walked over to where she saw the cougar but found nothing and went back to eating.

After dinner, daughter Kelsi, 4, was walking to a nearby creek with her 10-year-old cousin, who was holding a 2-year-old cousin, when the mountain lion attacked.

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"As they were walking, the 10-year-old cousin screamed, 'I see it,'" Kera told EastIdahoNews.com. "I knew she saw the mountain lion, but I didn't know it was attacking Kelsi."

Kera and another adult relative ran toward the mountain lion, screaming.

"The cat bit Kelsi on the side and tried to pick her up and drag her a little bit," Kera said. "It didn't have a good hold so it put its paws on her to get a better grip."

The approaching adults prompted the mountain to drop Kelsi and run off.

The crying Kelsi was left with bite and claw marks on the back, leg, upper thigh and arm. She told her mother she "hurt everywhere."

Some of her injuries can be seen in this report from EastIdahoNews.com:

Despite the injuries, Kera felt a certain calm and an overwhelming sense that her daughter would be fine.

"I just had this comfort that she was OK, and I felt like angels were there protecting her," Kera said.

At Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Kelsi was given antibiotics and a rabies shot. She is expected to fully recover.

"When we went to the ER, the doctors were surprised she had no head wounds," Kera told the Rexburg Standard Journal. "They said that cats go for the jugular. There was nothing on her neck."

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Later the same night, a young female mountain lion was treed by hounds a few hundred yards from the campsite and was killed by deputies from the Madison County Sheriff's office, according to Gregg Losinski, regional conservation educator from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"Cougar sightings are rare, let alone attacks on humans," Losinski wrote. "When lions do attack, records indicate that small children are often the targets. This family showed how vigilance and quick thinking can help avert a tragedy."

The family left the hospital around 4 a.m. Saturday and returned to their campsite to resume their family reunion, though Kelsi insisted on going to church on Sunday to show her friends "her battle wounds."

"I think it's crazy, but we were very watched over and blessed," Israel told the Standard Journal. "It could have been a whole lot worse. I'm just glad it was no worse than it turned out to be."

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