Cupertino, California: A mountain lion attacked a six-year-old boy on Sunday in Northern California and began dragging him away before his father and another man fought the animal off, authorities said.

The boy suffered bite wounds and scratches on his head and neck following the attack, which was reported about 1pm at a hiking trail in an open space preserve near the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino, Lt. Paul Foy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

He was recovering at Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre, where he was listed in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said.

The boy was among a group of 10 — comprised of his parents, another pair of parents and kids — hiking at the Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve. The boy’s father told investigators his son was about 10 feet ahead of the group when a mountain lion “came out of nowhere” and attacked the boy, Foy said.

“It’s quite extraordinary the lion would attack a person with so many people in the immediate vicinity,” Foy said.

He said the mountain lion attacked in the same way it would at a group of deer and targeting the easiest prey, that being the smallest member of the group.

The boy’s father and the other male adult in the group shouted and acted aggressively toward the mountain lion to scare it away, Foy said.

“He’s very, very lucky that the parents were so close,” he said.

Authorities closed trails in the area and looked for the mountain lion before calling off the search at nightfall.

Foy said authorities planned to deploy dogs on the trail on Monday to track the animal. If DNA samples from the lion’s saliva on the boy’s torn shirt match any animal captured, it will be killed “in the interest of public safety,” he said.

There have been 13 verified mountain lion attacks in California between 1986 and 2013, three of which resulted in deaths, according to the Fish and Wildfire department.

The trail where the attack occurred was on land owned by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which buys and protects land in the San Francisco Bay area.