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WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife: Confront cougars, don’t run

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A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife representative said that the cougar attack on Saturday near north Bend that left one man dead and another seriously injured is the first of its kind in a century.

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WDFW Captain Alan Myers told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the state has not seen another fatal cougar attack since 1924.

“It’s one of those events that are so tragic when you understand the details of it, and also strikes you as how incredibly rare of an occurrence this is,” he said.

S.J. Brooks, 32, and his friend Isaac Sederbaum, 31, were mountain biking north of North Bend when a cougar began chasing them down the path. Realizing that attempting to outrun a wildcat on their bikes would be futile, the two men stopped riding and used their bikes to fight off the cougar — the right move, according to WDFW.

“They stopped to confront the cougar, they did everything right, everything that we counsel people to do,” Myers said.

The cougar grabbed Sederbaum by his head and began shaking the man, according to Meyers. However, after Brooks started to run away, the cougar dropped Sederbaum and pursued Brooks.

Eastside Fire and Rescue, WDFW, and King County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene following the attack.

Brooks’ body was later found in the woods nearby. Sederbaum was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center.

WDFW later caught and euthanized the cougar to prevent it attacking anyone else. The creature’s body was found to be much lighter than an average cougar, which, Myers said, could explain why it had wanted to eat a human.

“The animal did appear skinnier than normal, and slightly emaciated — so there is one indicator that there may be something wrong with the cat,” he said.

Myers said that running from cougars triggers an instinct in the cougar, similar to that of a domestic cat, to chase its prey. He noted, however, that Brooks’ actions were entirely understandable, as fight or flight makes humans want to run in such a terrifying scenario.

“We often times counsel people not to run from cougars because they have an innate sense of wanting to give chase, just like your house cat would … but again, you can’t fault someone in a situation like that for wanting to run,” Myers said. “You or I would want to do the same thing.”

Myers encouraged hikers, bikers, campers, and anyone else who goes out in the woods to bring bear spray in case of a cougar or bear attack.

“Bear spray works on cougars as well as bears; we encourage people to carry firearms for protection,” he said.

If all else fails, he said, do not run, do not play dead, but instead confront the cougar head-on.

“Do not play dead — fight back. Fight back with everything you’ve got,” he said. “In most instances, people survive attacks from cougars that occur if they fight back.”

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