If not for the quick actions of an Idaho mother, a 4-year-old girl who was attacked by a mountain lion on Aug. 12, might not have survived.
The harrowing event transpired so quickly. One moment, Kelsi Butt was walking with two of her cousins near Green Canyon Hot Springs and in the next, a 90-pound mountain lion had snatched the little 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,” Kelsi’s father Israel told PEOPLE. “He rolled her over with his paws to better situate Kelsi’s body in his mouth.”
Upon hearing the screams of her daughter, mother Kera rushed to the scene and screamed at the lion to drop the toddler, which it eventually did.
“[Kera] picked Kelsi up and she was bleeding and there were puncture wounds on her belly,” Israel said. “From the neck down she is severely bruised.”
He added, “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. She’s on antibiotics and they’ve given her rabies shots as well, it’s protocol.”
Kera initially spotted the cougar hours earlier.
“We were eating dinner and my wife looked off into the distance and said, ‘I just saw a cat run by! A big cat!’ ” Israel recounted. “And we were sort of like, ‘No way! You’re crazy!’ And just went back to eating our dinner.”
The Idaho Fish and Game Department said cougar sightings are rare.
Following the attack, Idaho Fish and Game Senior Conservation Officer Andrew Sorensen enlisted the help of local hound hunter Mike Pimentel to immediately track the lion. The animal was forced into a tree and killed.
“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,” said Mike Keckler, chief of communications at Idaho Fish and Game told PEOPLE. “Any threat to public safety is always the top priority.”
The harrowing incident has traumatized the young girl, but photos of the dead animal have helped in her healing process.
“The first night after it happened, she said, ‘Dad, I’m scared! I’m having nightmares'” Israel said. “But then she went right to sleep. She says it felt like someone was running her over with a bike.”
“We are so blessed she survived this. There are angels out there watching over us,” Israel said. “I can’t even begin to describe how thankful and lucky we are. We still have our little girl with us.”