Cougar kills Washingtonian; wildlife officials explain how you can prevent attacks

A mountain lion killed one mountain biker and mauled another in Washington state on May 19. Authorities later shot the animal.

NORTH BEND, Wash. – A cougar attacked and killed a Washingtonian near North Bend this past weekend.

Two men were mountain biking on a gravel trail Saturday in the back country when they were attacked. A cougar killed S.J. Brooks and his friend, Isaac Sederbaum, sustained serious injuries.

For the first time in 94 years in the state of Washington we have this fatal encounter with a cougar.

However, Fish and Wildlife officials said even though this speaks to how rare an event like this is—it can happen.

If it does you need to be prepared and know what to do.

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"We all know the rarity of this situation, but it doesn't make it any more comforting to me," said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If you camp, hike, climb and enjoy the backcountry, Beausoleil said taking simple precautions goes a long way.

"The number one thing we tell everyone is to avoid surprise encounters," he stressed.

Surprise encounters happen most often to bikers and runners. It’s important for runners stay in groups and for bikers to stay close to each other.

To prevent running into dangerous wildlife, experts said you must bring a whistle and blow it every couple of minutes to spook all animals.

"Blow that whistle, especially when the corners are tight because they're going to hear you coming and you're never going to have an encounter," Beausoleil explained.

A whistle is a very scary sound for an animal that lives in the woods and doesn’t normally hear that.

If you see a potentially aggressive animal, the best line of defense against all animals is bear spray.

"This certainly would have been a case for it,” Beausoleil said. “You have to carry it on your waist in a holder, so it's readily available. Anything you spray with that that poses a threat will back down."

You don’t have to wait for contact, you can spray the pepper spray from 30 yards away.

“As soon as that animal passes through that cloud you’ve stopped their intent,” Beausoleil said.

Remember to make yourself look big, yell, wave your arms, throw anything at the animal and never, ever run.

"Even though your brain may be telling you to run because we have a fight or flight instinct, what you want to do is stand your ground.” Beausoleil said. “Keep an eye on the animal, and defend yourself at all costs."

Wildlife biologists also warn campers to secure food away from sleeping areas, and never intentionally or unintentionally give animals access to your food or trash.

Biologists said it creates a problem for you and the animals.

"One, they're getting into your food and getting into your things, they're damaging your property,” said Jason Fidorra, Washington Department of Wildlife district wildlife biologist for Benton and Franklin Counties “Two it's unhealthy for the animal, it habituates the animal, and it can create aggression in different species."

Fidorra said campers should treat things like toiletries that have scents, such as tooth paste, soaps, deodorant - like foods.

“Keep them stored with your food while you're doing any camping because those things are going to be attractants to animas as well," Fidorra explained.

Wildlife officials hope this attack doesn't deter people from enjoying the outdoors, instead they hope it propels people to take precautions to make sure their outdoor experience is a positive one.

About The Attack

Two bikers were ride on a gravel road on Saturday in the back country near North Bend. One turned and noticed a cougar approaching. They decided to speed up but didn’t’ feel like they were gaining any ground.

They stopped and did all the right things. They made themselves look big, yelled at the animal and waved their arms.

That didn’t deter it. The cat approached them and one of the victims used his bike and hit the animal with it. The mountain lion ran off into the woods.

Officials are still waiting to get more interviews for the details on much time passed, however, they do know that the men stayed on site.

The friends were collecting themselves after this encounter, asking if one another were okay. While they were having this conversation, the cougar came back and jumped on one of the men. He fought back, wrestled and punched the cat.

That’s when Brooks got of his bike and started running.

Because it was getting hit, the cougar let go and decided to go after the person running.

The severely injured surviving victim had to drive about 2.5 miles to get back to cell phone coverage. He called 911 and that’s when personnel responded.

Wildlife officials tracked and killed the cougar. A WSU veterinarian pathologist is doing testing to find out if anything was wrong with this animal that may have caused it to attack.

Wildlife officials do know that the cat was 30 pounds underweight and appeared emaciated. A full report will come out soon with more findings.

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