On Saturday, two men were mountain biking about 30 miles east of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains when they encountered a cougar. Authorities say Isaac Sederbaum and S.J. Brooks did everything right: they dismounted their bikes, stood their ground, and yelled at the animal. After it charged them, one cyclist even whacked it with his bicycle.
The cougar slunk into the bushes, and it appeared the coast was clear, but when the two riders prepared to book it, the cougar returned and pounced on Sederman. As the cougar held Sederman’s head in his jaws and shook him violently from side to side, Brooks took off running. However, a cougar’s instinct is to chase, and the cat then leapt on Brooks. As Sederman escaped, he says he saw the cougar dragging Brooks off into the woods, presumably to its den. Sederman rode for two miles before he could find a signal to call 911, and a helicopter arrived to transport him to a Seattle hospital. He was treated for “deep cuts throughout his body” and was in satisfactory condition by Sunday morning.
Rescue personnel found the cougar in its den standing over Brooks’s body. It escaped after they shot it once, but Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife authorities later tracked it to a tree and euthanized the cougar.
According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the “emaciated” cougar weighed just 100 pounds, 40-80 fewer than a typical three-to-four year old male cougar. A brain necropsy will be performed on the animal, since, per a spokesman, “something was wrong with the cougar.”
It’s worth noting that fatal cougar attacks are still relatively rare, though they’re slowly increasing as cougar habitats are encroached upon. This weekend’s attack is the first deadly run-in with a cougar in Washington state in 94 years, and the first fatal cougar attack in the U.S. since 2008. The Department of Fish and Wildlife issued the following guidelines on how to deal with a cougar in the wild:
- Stop, stand tall and don’t run. Pick up small children. Don’t run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.
- Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens.
- Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
- If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
- If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.