A 32-year-old cyclist killed Saturday in a cougar attack east of Seattle has been identified as S.J. Brooks, 32, an avid rider who last fall founded a local chapter of Friends on Bikes.
A friend who was injured in the incident, Isaac Sederbaum, 31, remained in satisfactory condition after being hospitalized with injuries. Both victims are from Seattle.
According to a Seattle Times report, the cougar, estimated to be three or four years old and “emaciated” at 100 pounds, was treed and shot dead by wildlife authorities. DNA tests will be done for positive identification, but officials felt confident they got the right animal. Mountain lions are called cougars in the Pacific Northwest.
The riders were biking on an unpaved road in a remote area without cellular service near North Bend, half an hour east of Seattle, when they encountered the cougar. They made noise and thought they had scared the animal away.
But the cougar returned and jumped Sederbaum, who managed to fight off the cat despite his head being engulfed in its jaws. Brooks fled and the cougar chased after. Sederbaum decided to go for help and rode away.
The King County sheriff’s office said Sederbaum had to go 2 miles to pick up a cell signal and call 911. By the time authorities responded, Brooks was deceased. They chased the cat off with gunfire and used dogs to track it down. About five hours elapsed between the initial incident and when authorities killed the cougar.
The death marks Washington State’s first from a cougar attack in 94 years. Wildlife experts theorize that juvenile males who have lost parents to poaching or permit killing may not have learned to avoid humans, reported the Seattle Times. They also often have difficulty establishing territory in areas already occupied by adult males.
Washington State allows 250 cougars to be killed legally each year. The state population is kept stable at around 2,100 adult cats.
News of the fatality gave pause to hundreds of mountain bikers celebrating the dedication of a new 17-mile trail network just 5 miles from the site of the attack. Yvonne Kraus, executive director of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, posted on Facebook, “It was a day of highs and lows.”
The MTBR crew extends our heartfelt condolences to friends and families of the victims.
State wildlife officials reiterated guidance on what to do in case of a mountain lion encounter:
- Stop, stand tall and don’t run. Pick up small children if they are present. Don’t run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase
- Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens
- Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide
- If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger
- If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back