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Mountain lion kills one man, injures another in Wash. state

Posted at 10:20 AM, May 20, 2018

UPDATE (3 p.m.) from AP – The two mountain bikers did what they were supposed to do when they noticed a mountain lion tailing them on a trail east of Seattle.

They got off their bikes. They faced the beast, shouted and tried to spook it. After it charged, one even smacked the cougar with his bike, and it ran off.

It wasn’t enough, authorities said.

When they got on their bikes again, the cougar returned, biting one of them on the head and shaking him. The second cyclist ran, and the animal dropped the first victim and pounced on him, killing him and dragging him back to what appeared to be its den, King County sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Abbott said.

"They did everything they were supposed to do," Abbott said Sunday. "But something was wrong with this cougar."

The attack Saturday near North Bend, in the Cascade Mountain foothills 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Seattle, was the first fatal cougar attack in the state in 94 years.

The 31-year-old Seattle man who was bitten first survived. Rescuers flew him to a hospital, where he was in satisfactory condition Sunday, Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.

Authorities would not confirm the names of the cyclists until the deceased victim, a 32-year-old Seattle resident, was formally identified. That was expected Monday.

After the cougar attacked the second man, the first managed to get on his bike and ride off, looking back to see his friend being dragged into the trees, Abbott said. He rode for 2 miles (3 kilometers) before he could get a cellphone signal to call 911.

When rescuers arrived, it took about half an hour to find the second victim, who was dead with the cougar on top of him in what appeared to be a den-like area. An officer shot at it, and it ran off. Several hours later, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife agents used dogs to track it to a nearby tree. They shot and killed it.

Authorities plan to match DNA taken from the animal with DNA from the victims to be certain they killed the right cougar. They also plan to examine the cougar to see what might have been wrong with it.

There are an estimated 2,000 cougars in Washington. Until the 1960s, the state paid hunters a bounty for killing them. Now, it allows 250 to be hunted in 50 designated zones.

While they are sometimes known to kill livestock or pets, and though one even found its way into a park in Seattle in 2009, encounters with people in Washington state are rare.

Attacks have become more common as people increasingly encroach on the animals’ territory. In North America, there have been about 25 deadly attacks and 95 nonfatal attacks reported in the past century, but more attacks have been reported in the U.S. West and Canada over the past 20 years than in the previous 80, according to Fish and Wildlife.

Experts say that people encountering the big cats in the wild should stop and pick up small children immediately. Because running and rapid movements can trigger the animal’s prey drive, don’t run. Instead, face the cougar, speak firmly and slowly back away – appearing as large as possible, such as by standing on a rock or stump or opening a sweatshirt or jacket.

Keep your eyes on the animal and become more assertive if it doesn’t back off. And if it does attack, fight back.

"The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger," Fish and Wildlife advises on its website.


ORIGINAL STORY – A man died and another man is hospitalized after a cougar attacked them while they were mountain biking in King County, Wash., Saturday morning. 

NBC affiliate KING 5 reports the attack happened in a very remote part of Washington, northeast of Snoqualmie and North Bend, while the two were riding bikes on a gravel road. 

"They were riding when one hears a scream from the partner, look back, and sees they’re being chased by a cougar," said Alan Myers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

The second man was able to get back on his bike after being "mauled" and unfortunately could not help his friend. 

The survivor was taken to Harborview Medical Center to be treated; his latest condition was listed as serious. 

Officers searched for the other man, and found his body with another cougar, who authorities eventually shot and retrieved for DNA testing. 

Department officials say this attack was only the second time a mountain lion killed a human in Washington state in the last 100 years. 

"One of the main reasons I own a pistol is for self-defense when hiking in the woods," said John Sowatzky. "Not sure I’d be fast enough for a mountain lion, to be honest with you, they come out of nowhere."