Unknown Animal Attacks NM Boy

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 20th, 2008

A 5-year-old boy hiking with his family near Sandia Peak, New Mexico, has survived an attack from an unidentified species of large animal, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said Sunday, May 18, 2008.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said the family was hiking near the popular Balsam Glade area on the Sandia Mountains, when the boy ran ahead of his parents. It happened on the east side of the Sandia Mountains around 7 p.m. Saturday.

A sheriff’s department report identified the boy as Jose Salazar Jr. of Albuqureque, New Mexico.

The boy’s parents saw the animal emerge from the brush and start dragging away their child, White said. The father then chased the animal, which let go of his son.

White said the animal was a mountain lion, but Ross Morgan, a spokesman for Game and Fish, said dogs trained to track mountain lions picked up no scent in the area Saturday night or Sunday.

Officials said they don’t know what kind of animal attacked the boy. They’re looking at the tracks in the area to find out if it was a cougar, mountain lion, or bear.

“The animal had the kid and was dragging him down the side of the hill. When the father jumped over there, the animal ran off,” said Ross Morgan, who works for the Department of Game and Fish.

“The dad described it as a short, stocky, dark brown animal,” Morgan said.

Morgan said hikers in the area Sunday were told about the attack, but the news did not deter them from hiking.

The Department of Game and Fish is warning people to be careful if they’re in the mountains.

Some people visiting the mountains on Sunday said they are aware of the dangers and are prepared for what could come their way.

“We have to expect that we’re going to come across animals,” visitor Rich Weiner said. “We’re in their habitat.”

But others who spend time in the Sandia Mountains, like David Czaplewski, said news of the attack has them shaken up.

“It’s shocking and kind of scary,” Czaplewski said. “We’re making sure we’re keeping track of where everyone is and looking around.”

Officials said everyone who is visiting the mountains should be extra careful, so they don’t become the next victim.

The boy suffered puncture wounds (bite marks) to his head, neck and back. He was in serious condition at University of New Mexico Hospital on Saturday, White said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Sunday the family declined to make the boy’s condition public.

He’s currently in the Intensive Care Unit at University of New Mexico Hospital.


“Boy attacked by large animal on Sandias,”, Las Cruces Sun-Times, May 18. 2008.


“Child Attacked By Wild Animal,” KOAT.COM – Albuquerque, NM, May 18, 2008; also video.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

22 Responses to “Unknown Animal Attacks NM Boy”

  1. bill green responds:

    This is indeed a very sad interesting story about a unknown animal attacking a boy in new mexico. Greta van Suteran of “On the Record” interviewed the forest ranger who got the 911 call from the boy’s father. The father went out there to look for the animal. The boy is doing better.

  2. Richard888 responds:

    The only animal remotely close to NM that’s short, stocky and dark brown, and that doesn’t leave a mountain lion scent is a wolverine. Is it possible?

  3. kittenz responds:

    I would think that they could retrieve DNA saliva samples from the boy’s wounds and possibly use that to determine for sure what attacked him.

  4. sschaper responds:

    The bite marks ought to be sufficient for identification, shouldn’t they? The father says it was a cougar, so it must have a feline appearance. At least in the heat of the moment.

    Maybe the conditions weren’t right for leaving scent?

    Fisher or Pine Martin? Otherwise I’m clueless here. A wolverine would have killed the boy, and that is *very* far south for them.

  5. Endroren responds:

    Something more mundane is certainly more likely, but if I wanted to guess a bit more exoptic, a Shunka Warak’in?


  6. shumway10973 responds:

    It’s simple. The father just knew that something grabbed his son. In his mind it had to be a cougar…what else could or would do such a thing (especially in that area)? Are there any wolverines or bears in the area. I know, bears are usually big, but sometimes the mother bear kicks her baby out while it’s still kinda small. The animal would either have to be desperate, think it’s on the top of the food chain or sick (those are usually the reasons for animals attacking humans).

  7. SOCALcryptid responds:

    I hope this child recovers from this physically and mentally. This sounds just like a mountain lion attack. Bites to the head and neck are common from a mountain lion attack. Also being a small child in front of a group can provoke an attack. These cats will go after the weakest link. Someone running will also provoke a mountain lion to attack. This cat was probably stalking the group and when the child ran ahead of everyone is when the cat took advantage of the situation and attacked. A scenario that happens due to the nature of these animals. I hope they do not hunt this animal because it was only doing what mountain lions do.

    Kittenz, good comment.

  8. kittenz responds:

    It could have been a bobcat maybe, or even a dog, coyote, or wolf … if the father was very frantic (who wouldn’t be?), then he may not have seen what he thought he saw. From the article it seems that the sherrif is the one who said it was a mountain lion … but pumas are not known for readily releasing their prey; in fact, in most recent puma attacks on humans, the cats have been extremely tenacious and hard to drive away from the person. I wonder if the father actually said it was a mountain lion?

  9. Lestat3407 responds:

    Read the story closely people. The sherriff says it was a cougar. What the father thought is never stated. Good idea Kittenz, they definitely need to find out what kind of animal it was. Whatever it was, it is not natural for a predator to come that close to humans, supposedly the adults were not far from the child. Something may be very wrong in that ecosystem and we need to know about it.

  10. Stan Cold responds:

    No offense to Richard888’s theory, I don’t belive it is a wolverine because they do not live in that area. I am an avid studier of wolverines and their behavior.

  11. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Wel, let’s hope young José recovers from this traumatic episode. After that he may be interviewed to know the appearance of his attacker.

  12. cryptidsrus responds:

    Like others said here—good points, Kittenz.

    Hopefully the boy will recover soon and be able to possibly tell what is going on.

  13. kittenz responds:

    The fact that trained lion dogs didn’t pick up lion scent would seem to rule out the possibility that it was a puma. The attack certainly fits the M.O. of a puma – except for the animal releasing the child so readily.

    But maybe it was a very young puma, perhaps even a kitten just learning to hunt. Young animals seem to carry less scent than mature ones; possibly that would explain why the dogs didn’t trail it. A puma kitten would appear to be darker and “shorter” than an adult or subadult animal too. And a kitten might be much more easily startled into releasing a child than an adult cat would be. In fact, I think that a full grown puma would be able to actually carry a 5-yr-old child away bodily, rather than dragging the child along as this one is said to have done.

    The bite marks should give some indication as to the size of the teeth and the size of the jaws so maybe once those wounds have been fully analyzed the identity of the animal will become clear.

    If the animal was indeed a puma kitten, maybe this incident would be enough to convince it that human beings are not easy prey. The article says that the attack occurred along a popular trail. People have to realize that they should never allow children, especially small children, to range ahead or lag behind in wilderness areas. Children’s small size and their behaviors trigger predatory instincts in many predators but especially in cats.

    On the other hand, if the area is very popular with the public, the rangers or other officials have a responsibility to try to ensure public safety. At the very least, they need to try to locate the animal responsible for the attack, and take measures to try to prevent future incidents. Possibly the animal could be relocated, or at least tagged so that it can be recognized as a problem animal.

    I would hope that the animal, whatever it is, will not be killed, except as a last resort. Public safety has to come first, but the animal should not be destoyed unless all other options fail.

  14. Richard888 responds:

    I am not going to insist on the wolverine hypothesis, afterall, other more believable explanations (i.e., coyote) have been offered. But just so that you know, New Mexico DOES have wolverines:

    The wolverine’s current range extends from northern Europe and Siberia through northern North America into Alaska, Idaho and Montana. Wolverines have been sighted in the Cascade region of Washington and Oregon. Its range once included Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The wolverine’s population and range has shrunk due to hunting and habitat loss and fragmentation.

  15. kittenz responds:

    I said earlier that the attack fits the ambush-type attacks of pumas, but of course many other predators besides pumas use ambush to take prey.

    I still think it’s odd that trained lion dogs did not find lion scent (if the animal was a puma, that is). Usually, big, tough, single-minded hounds are used for lion tracking, and they are VERY enthusiastic trackers. That’s one thing that makes me think this MIGHT not have been a puma attack.

    Coyotes also attack from ambush, and coyote attacks on children are on the rise. Of all the predators that it could have been, I think that a puma is most likely, and if not a puma, maybe a coyote. You would think that the father would know either of those animals on sight, because they are both native to New Mexico, but maybe he was too distraught to recognize the type of animal that was trying to drag his son. Another possibility is that it was a very young, inexperienced bear; the description “short, stocky, dark brown” certainly would fit a bear cub. I think a puma or a coyote is more likely though.

    I don’t completely rule out a wolverine either, Richard888, because they ranged all through the western mountains within historic times, but they are so rare in the lower 48, and so reclusive, that I think a wolverine is probably the least likely of native predators to consider as a possibility.

  16. kittenz responds:

    I found this updated information just now:

    The state Game and Fish Department said in a news release Monday that the child and his father identified the animal as a mountain lion from pictures shown to them.

    Game and fish spokesman Ross Morgan, however, said dogs trained to track mountain lions picked up no scent in the area Saturday night or Sunday. The dogs were brought in again Monday.

    “We’re not going to rule out a small bear, cougar and bobcat at this point,” Morgan said.

    The U.S. Forest Service closed the Balsam Glade trail and campground while the investigation continues. The area is known to have mountain lions, bobcats, bears, coyotes and feral dogs.

    This is the link where I found it:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24712589/

  17. kittenz responds:

    Here’s another link with even more information. From the information in this one I believe that the animal must have been a puma:


    The good news is that the little boy is up and walking around, out of ICU, and out of immediate danger.

  18. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Bottomline is: Humans should refrain to think the entire world is our personal backyard. Guess what? the world is a pretty unsafe place, and full with beings that don’t have much respect for our supreme intelligence.

    But as I stated earlier, my wish is for José to fully recover and not end up scarred (inside or outside) by this event.

  19. thatericn responds:

    The lack of puma scent for the dogs to detect, and the short/dark/stocky description make me suspect a juvenile or adolescent brown bear.

    Analysis of the bite and claw marks should tell a lot…

    I too hope the young boy heals up well, physically and emotionally.

  20. planettom responds:

    Hello everyone. I hiked this very same area, Sandia Peak, just over 9 months ago. I have friends and family in the area. It was my first time there and I couldn’t help but notice there are bear signs everywhere cautioning those to keep an eye out for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a bear. It was my first time to the area and it was beautiful with very dense brush in some areas and thick forest. Great hiking paths, but in some areas, very steep and densly covered with vegetation just feet away from the path. I’m actually still trying to identify a small mammal that rushed across the road on my way up to the peak. Looked like some sort of weasel.

    I do hope the boy recovers fully from the attack.

  21. planettom responds:

    In addition, when I was at the visitors station on top of the peak, I spoke to a couple of the park rangers. Very friendly guys who did mention bear are common in the area. They had plaster casts of bear paw prints and several bobcat as well. The area is full of wildlife, that’s for sure. The only large mammals I saw on my trip however were mule deer.

  22. SOCALcryptid responds:

    I was right on the money when it came to the culprit of this attack. This just sounded all too familiar. Here in Southern California we get at least one mountain lion attack on a human annually. This usually happens in the summer months.

    This boy was very lucky that the Mountain Lion let go of him as quick as it did. His fathers quick reaction probably saved his life.

    Running and jogging can provoke a mountain lion attack. These cats even bring down people on mountain bikes. We see a lot of them on the news, in peoples back yards, and fences.

    Kittenz gave a lot of correct information on this fascinating creature.

    Again I hope Jose Jr. recovers quickly from this unfortunate attack. My heart goes out to little Jose Jr. and his family.

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