Two friends riding their bikes in a mountainous, wooded area of Washington State on Saturday morning were attacked by a cougar, which killed one of them in the state’s first such fatality in more than 90 years, officials said.
The authorities said the two cyclists saw the cougar, a 100-pound male, in pursuit and one of them screamed. They stopped, got off their bikes and made noise to ward it off as people in such situations are advised to do, the authorities said.
At first, it appeared to work. The cougar fled.
But as they were about to pedal away, the cougar returned, Sgt. Ryan Abbott of the King County Sheriff’s Office said. It jumped on Isaac M. Sederbaum, putting its mouth around his head and shaking him. It released him and chased after the other cyclist, who had started to run. The authorities identified that cyclist as Sonja J. Brooks.
As Sederbaum, who had been bloodied but survived, rode away from the scene, he could see the cougar dragging Brooks into the woods, Sergeant Abbott said. Sederbaum later told the authorities that he had to travel about two miles before getting a cellphone signal and calling 911.
By the time help arrived, it was too late. Officers found the body of Brooks, who was known as S.J., underneath a log and debris in what appeared to be the cougar’s den. The animal was atop the body, said Capt. Alan Myers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police.
The attack happened around Lake Hancock, near Snoqualmie, Wash., about 30 miles east of Seattle.
Though cougars, which are also called mountain lions and pumas, are known to roam the outskirts of North Bend, Wash., a five-minute drive from Snoqualmie, Captain Myers said attacks on humans are rare. The death of Brooks, 32, was the first time a cougar had killed a human in Washington since 1924, he said.
“Normally we respond to a cougar attack on somebody’s livestock,” Captain Myers said. “People are not on the menu for cougars. They normally want nothing to do with us.”
After locating the cougar, a deputy fired at it and it fled. The authorities later tracked it to a nearby gully using hounds, Captain Myers said. A hound chased the cougar into a tree, and officers fired at least four rounds. The cougar was knocked out of the tree and was fatally shot as it tried to escape.
When it comes to “predators that kill a human being,” the department policy is to destroy the animal, Captain Myers said.
Sederbaum was taken by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Sederbaum, 31, was upgraded to satisfactory condition, the hospital said on Twitter late on Saturday.
Friends said that Brooks did not identify as female. On Monday, the sheriff’s office released a statement saying, “The family requests their privacy during this difficult time, so they can grieve the loss of their daughter.”
Captain Myers said his officers were “very certain” that the hounds tracked down the cougar from the attack but said veterinarians will try to verify it with forensic tests.
He said it was not immediately clear why it had attacked. Officials estimated it was 3 to 4 years old.
“We don’t know yet if there’s a disease issue or an injury issue,” he said. “All indications are this was a fairly healthy cougar.”
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