4-Year-Old Girl Survives Mountain Lion Attack During Camping Trip: 'He Had My Daughter in His Mouth,' Says Dad
"He had my daughter in his mouth and he couldn't pick her up so he dragged her to get a better bite," Israel Butt tells PEOPLE of the incident
Israel Butt says “divine intervention” is the only plausible explanation for his 4-year-old daughter’s survival after a mountain lion attacked her and dragged her body through an Idaho field on Friday.
Kelsi Butt was walking with her 10-year-old cousin and her 2-year-old cousin at a family reunion near Green Canyon Hot Springs when out of nowhere a 93-pound male mountain lion crept out of some weeds and grabbed the girl with its teeth.
“He had my daughter in his mouth and he couldn’t pick her up so he dragged her to get a better bite,” Israel tells PEOPLE of the incident. “He rolled her over with his paws to better situate Kelsi’s body in his mouth.”
Kelsi’s mother Kera rushed to her daughter when she heard her screams. When she arrived at the scene, the horrified mother began screaming at the mountain lion until it dropped her young daughter.
“[Kera] picked Kelsi up and she was bleeding and there were puncture wounds on her belly,” Israel says. “From the neck down she is severely bruised.”
He adds, “We are so blessed she survived this. There are angels out there watching over us.”
Israel says wife Kera actually saw the mountain lion earlier in the day.
“We were eating dinner and my wife looked off into the distance and said, ‘I just saw a cat run by! A big cat!’ ” he recalls. “And we were sort of like, ‘No way! You’re crazy!’ And just went back to eating our dinner.”
But shortly after that, Kelsi was attacked.
“We rushed her to the emergency room, she is fine but doctors are worried about the bites becoming infected because cats are so filthy and those bite marks can become really infected,” says Israel. “She’s on antibiotics and they’ve given her rabies shots as well, it’s protocol.”
Early Saturday morning the Idaho Fish and Game Department tracked down the male mountain lion – using hounds to catch his scent – and “treed” the animal.
“The animal was found a couple hundred yards from where the incident occurred, so they forced it into a tree and they dispatched it,” chief of communications at Idaho Fish and Game Mike Keckler tells PEOPLE. “This is a wild animal and when we have something like this occur we can’t take any chances. We are very lucky that this little girl survived this.”
“Any threat to public safety is always the top priority.”
Keckler says that, “If it looks like a mountain lion is interested in you or is stalking you, then we advise people to make noise and get big.”
“But always back away, slowly, from the situation,” he adds. “And if it attacks, we recommend to fight and if you’re able to land a punch or two the cats will generally back off.”
Israel says Kelsi experienced initial shock after the incident but has since recovered – and seeing photos of the dead mountain lion taken by officials has helped her cope with the trauma.
“The first night after it happened, she said, ‘Dad, I’m scared! I’m having nightmares’ ” he says. “But then she went right to sleep. She says it felt like someone was running her over with a bike.”
“I can’t even begin to describe how thankful and lucky we are. We still have our little girl with us.”