Avid hiker after hearing about deadly cougar attack: 'I am afraid. I hate being afraid.'
PRESTON, Wash. -- The man who survived a weekend cougar attack near North Bend is now out of the hospital, a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center told KOMO News.
Understandably, the attack has left some hikers feeling fearful about heading out into the wild.
Tracie Walters, an avid hiker, posted a note on the PNW Outdoor Women Group after an 8-mile hike around Cherry Creek on Monday.
"I went solo hiking today and had a very difficult time losing myself in the experience. My mind kept going back to the lives lost this weekend, both human and animal. I felt uncomfortable out there for the first time ever. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed," Walters wrote.
"I am so conflicted and today showed me that I am afraid. I hate being afraid," Walters wrote at the end of her post.
Walters told KOMO News she's retired. She ventures out on hikes about once a week, she said.
"It wasn’t as enjoyable as it normally is because I always like to get lost in the moment when I’m out there," Walters told KOMO News about her hike on Monday. "And just couldn’t do that yesterday."
Walters isn't alone.
Her feelings are natural after hearing about any tragic event, experts said.
But it’s important to note how rare cougar attacks are.
The number of hikers has doubled in Washington state over the last 10 years, according to a spokesman for The Mountaineers. The attack Saturday near North Bend was the first deadly cougar attack in the state in 94 years.
"It’s normal and natural for people to feel, to have that fear. And at the same time, I want to step back and emphasize that an incident like this is actually quite unusual," said Steve Smith, climbing education manager for The Mountaineers. "So the message is not to be afraid, but to be educated and prepared."
Smith said there are several things you should do if you see a cougar:
Pick up children and group together to appear bigger and more threatening.
Don't threaten it. Give it a clear way to get away, but maintain eye contact. Have your pepper spray ready, if needed.
Fight or flight? Never run away. It triggers their chase instinct.
If threatened, use your pepper spray or fight back with sticks or rocks. Make noise, be aggressive, and maintain eye contact.
If attack, fight back. Cougar are known to have limited endurance, but they are persistent. So they may return to try again if their first attack is unsuccessful.
Report any sightings to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife or land manager.
Walters told KOMO News she always carries several essentials with her, including a loud whistle.
She knows time will eventually help ease her fears about going out in the wild, she said.
"Just don’t let things like that stop you from doing what you love," she said. "That’s not living when that happens."
It's a motto she’ll take with her as she heads out on another hike with her sister this Friday.
For more information about cougars, you can visit the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife's website.