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Cougar attacks 5 cyclists in Washington, injuring 60-year-old woman

A woman was hospitalized after a cougar attacked her while she biked — a scary event that's only occurred some 22 times in the state's last 100 years.
Cougar attacks 5 cyclists in Washington, injuring 60-year-old woman
Posted at 8:00 PM, Feb 19, 2024

A group of five cyclists shared a Washington trail with a rare guest Saturday, but the surprise appearance didn't come with a warm welcome from either party.

The crew had been biking on Tokul Creek trail, northeast of Fall City, when a cougar unexpectedly jumped out from the side of the road and attacked one of the cyclists — a 60-year-old woman.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said it received a report of the human-cougar incident at 12:48 p.m. and arrived to find the other bikers had detached the animal from the woman and held it down — police say with a mountain bike, per CNN — until help arrived.

The woman, who sustained either claw or bite injuries to her face and neck, was hospitalized after the incident but has since been released, WDFW reported.

"We are thankful that the victim is stable after the incident this weekend," WDFW Lieutenant Erik Olson said. "The people on scene took immediate action to render aid, and one of our officers was able to arrive within minutes to continue medical aid and coordinate transport. We may have had a very different outcome without their heroic efforts."

Wildlife officials shot and killed the 75-pound male cougar at the scene. Eyewitnesses said they saw a second cougar nearby at the time of the incident, but authorities reported they couldn't find it after an exhaustive search.

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As of 2022, WDFW estimated there were 3,600 cougars in the state of Washington. Typically preying on deer and other medium-size forest animals, the agency says cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare. The state has had two fatal attacks and 20 encounters resulting in human injury in the last 100 years.

One of those attacks happened last July, when a cougar left an 8-year-old girl with minor injuries after an attack in Port Angeles. 

Though relatively few people will ever encounter a cougar, WDFW advises those who do come face-to-face with the animal to hold their ground: Don't run, talk to it firmly while slowly backing away, try to appear larger than the cougar and fight back if it attacks. Those who are aggressive enough will make the cougar flee after it realizes it's made a mistake, the wildlife officials say.

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