Sometimes a trip to the zoo can be a little too exciting. It certainly was recently for Minoter Vicki Tiffany.
Tiffany was accompanying her son, Jess, and his family during an outing at the Como Park Zoo in Minneapolis last Saturday when friendly conversation and smiles were suddenly replaced by screams and terrified faces.
"It was quite terrifying and quick," said Tiffany. "I rushed over and the mother was screaming and the guy was terrified and the little boy was on the ground. There was spots of blood on the back of his little shirt, which was pretty tattered."
The boy, believed to be about three years old, had just been attacked by a mountain lion. The lion had reached a front paw through a wire mesh enclosure and grabbed the boy who had apparently been lifted over a protective guardrail for the purpose of posing for a photograph.
"I saw the entire attack. I heard the scream and saw the little kid getting pulled up against the cage. The cougar's paw shot out and grabbed the kid by the shoulder and started pulling him in," said Jess Tiffany, Vicki's son and former Minoter who resides in Minneapolis. "I jumped over the guardrail to try and get to the kid. The dad was playing tug-of-war with the cougar and was able to get the boy pulled away. I was within a foot of him when that happened. It was fast and very scary."
Jess Tiffany said the lion reached through the mesh and ripped at the father's pants as he turned away with the child.
"My mom and sister were there. I yelled at my mom because she's a nurse." said Jess Tiffany.
When the father and boy scrambled back over the guardrail, Vicki Tiffany did a quick examination of the boy and saw numerous scratches and small puncture-type wounds. She advised the father that the most serious wound required stitches.
"The worst was a gash on his clavicle that was less than an inch long but maybe one-third of an inch deep. That doesn't sound like much, but on a child that's a good-sized gash," said Vicki Tiffany.
The family of the injured boy left the scene immediately, presumably to seek medical attention. However, St. Paul police were still searching for the identity of the father and son as of Tuesday morning.
The viewing area surrounding the Como Park Zoo lion exhibits is well signed with warnings for visitors to stay behind the guardrail. The distance between the guardrail and the mesh animal cage is about four feet wide and planted with ground cover.
"Those barriers and those signs are there for a reason," said Vicki Tiffany.