Cougar attacks 2 bikers in western Washington leaving 1 dead and 1 injured

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Mountain bikers in the Pacific Northwest have a new concern about riding in the remote Cascade foothills after news spread that a cougar attack in the forests east of Snoqualmie and North Bend left one biker dead and another injured.

The Seattle Times reports it was only the second fatal mountain lion attack in the state in the past 94 years. The Department of Fish & Wildlife reports that the population of mountain lions, a protected species, has remained stable  at about 2,100 in recent years.

Following the Saturday morning attack, department officers tracked the mountain lion with hounds and killed it. The cougar was standing next to its victim when first spotted.

According to news reports, the two men were riding in the Lake Hancock area east of North Bend and Snoqualmie and north of Mount Si. They stopped when they saw a mountain lion apparently stalking them. They made some noise to scare the big cat away.

While they were talking about that scary encounter, the mountain lion jumped one of the men. When the second man started to run the mountain lion chased after him. The first victim saw his friend being dragged away, and he took off on his bike to ride back into cellphone range and call for help.

The injured man, 31, was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment. Authorities found the cougar standing over the other man, 32. Deputies shot at him and the cougar ran off. The animal was later shot dead.

Staying safe in cougar country

It’s hard to know what precipitated the attack.

Mountain bikers are encouraged to make noise while they ride in remote areas so they don’t surprise bears or cougars, who generally try to avoid humans.

Many bikers drape strands of bells on their bikes that jingle as they ride over rough terrain, warning animals that they’re close.

These bikers on Saturday stopped and made noise when they noticed they were being stalked. That would normally chase the animal away.

But cougars are known to be protective of their young and of their kills, which they hide and feed on later. There’s been no word whether either was in the area of this attack.

In addition to carrying bells or other noise-makers, bikers in remote areas are encouraged to carry a can of pepper spray for protection.

Capt. Alan Myers, with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told KOMO:

“Don’t run, whatever you do, don’t run, throw things at it, make noise.” Male cougars can weigh 120 to 200 pounds and run 40 mph or more. They can jump as much as 40 feet horizontally, with a vertical leap over 10 feet.

During the past 94 years, there have been two fatal cougar attacks in Washington and 18 attacks in which a person was injured. The victims are usually hikers or joggers who are in the woods alone.

Although mountain lion attacks are rare, they not unprecedented. A mountain lion attacked a mountain biker in Orange County, California, in 2004. Authorities believed the animal attacked the woman as prey, because she was being dragged away before others scared the cat away.

Below, Department of Fish & Wildlife reports of cougar encounters in past 12 months:

Other tips from the Mountain Lion Foundation:
“Wearing brightly contrasting clothing can help a lion distinguish you from its natural prey.
“Lions aren’t able to see in sharp focus or in detail. Leaning down or bending over also makes the neck and back of the head vulnerable, and this is where a lion will target an attack.
“Rapid movement of any kind — like biking or jogging — may trigger a lion’s instinct to chase.
“Lions will not turn their back on your if they view you as dangerous, because they know from their own hunting behavior that predators attack from behind. So a lion not back down is often a sign that you already have the advantage.
“The best way to ensure that both you and the lion may leave safely is for you to back away slowly while continuing to look as big and intimidating as possible, leaving the lion avenues of escape.
“People survive encounters with mountain lions when they behave aggressively. Not only does being hit by a thrown rock hurt, but it makes it very clear that you are not a deer or coyote.”

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