Child escapes serious injury in cougar attack in Leavenworth

VIDEO: Child escapes serious injury in cougar attack in Leavenworth

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. — A Leavenworth park was reopened after a four-year-old boy escaped being mauled by a cougar. The family's dogs chased the big cat away.

Washington State Patrol Trooper John Bryant said in a Twitter post Saturday night, the incident happened at dusk in Enchantment Park.

Enchantment Park is located off of Highway 2 and is on the edge of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

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The attack on the child was the second time that day that the cougar had gotten close to humans.

After the first cougar sighting, the park was shut down. It turned out several people were still in the park, and at about 9:15 p.m. Saturday, a cougar pounced on a four-year-old child.

Capt. Mike Jewell with state Fish & Wildlife Police stood in popular Enchantment Park in Leavenworth hours after the attack.

"It's not unusual for a cougar or other wildlife to be around Leavenworth or even in Leavenworth," said Capt. Jewell.

Even, he said, in a park as popular as Enchantment it's not unusual.

"It is popular, but it is surrounded by the same habitat and hills you see around around the city of Leavenworth as well," said Capt. Jewell.

The Washington State Patrol tweeted a photograph of the cougar that was seen at least three times Saturday. The first sighting was when a group of people was able to scare the cougar away. That led to the park being closed.

But it turned out several people were still in Enchantment park.  And when the cougar re-emerged, it went after the little boy.

According to investigators, the boy's family released their two dogs and they stopped the attack. Wildlife officials and Chelan County Sheriff's deputies used their own dogs to track down the cougar. When they found it, they killed it.

"We did lethally remove the cougar," said Capt. Jewell. "Under these circumstances our No. 1 priority is the safety of the public."

Still, that didn't stop some families from celebrating a 6-year-old's birthday a few feet from where the attack happened.

"You don't want it to happen but at the same time you're, you're not exactly surprised," said parent Shelby Scott, who said he lives nearby. "However this close to an actual playground is a little unnerving."

Capt. Jewell said the cougar was a male, at least 1 1/2 years old and weighed about 125 pounds.

Based on the weight of the animal, it was not suffering from malnutrition. A necropsy, the equivalent of an autopsy on humans, is planned.  But Jewell said they may never know why the big cat attacked.

The most important thing to know, he insists, is that cougar attacks are rare and that this time the damage to the child was minimal.

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Back in March, a British Columbia mother pried open the jaws of one of two cougars that had her 7-year-old son by the arm. She heard a commotion in her backyard, ran to help and pounced on the young male cat attacking her son.

The boy suffered injuries to the head, neck and arm and was airlifted to a local hospital for treatment, the network reported.

His mother suffered minor injuries to her hand.

Notable cougar attacks that have happened in Washington:

December 1924: Jimmie Fehlhaber, age 13, died in Olema (about 20 miles southeast of Twisp) while trying to run away from a cougar.

June 1977: Cherie Lee O'Neal of Seattle was camping with her husband and two children near Enumclaw. While sunbathing near the Greenwater River, a young male cougar attacked. O'Neal fought the cougar off, but it went after he 4-year-old daughter. O'Neal's husband scared the cougar off, and it was later found and killed.

June 1992: A cougar pounced on a young girl walking inside Lake Wenatachee State Park. Her father knocked the cat off his daughter and cornered it in a tree. State wildlife officials captured it, but later euthanized it.

August 1994: A 5-year-old boy was attacked inside the Olympic National Park near the Dungeness River. The boy's father was able to scare the cougar off by yelling at it.

May 1996: A 28-year-old man was hiking in the Olympic National Park in the Elwah Valley when he was attacked. The man was able to use wrestling moves to fight the cougar, and the animal eventually ran away. The hiker suffered gashes and puncture wounds.

August 1998: A cougar carried Carmen Schrock, 5, off into the woods near Metaline Falls north of Spokane, but she was saved by her family. She survived the attack but died along with four siblings in 2005 in a car accident.

August 1999: A 5-year-0ld boy living near Kettle Falls was dragged off by a cougar. An adult was able to scare the cougar into releasing the boy.

September 2002: A woman jogging at Summit Lake near Olympia was stalked by a cougar. The cougar attacked her one time, slashing her arm, but ran off and was never found.

April 2006: A 59-year-old man was attacked in front of his home in Leavenworth. He was playing fetch with his dog when the cougar emerged from bushes and latched on to the man's leg. The cougar let go and fled the scene. Police tried to find it, but never did.

July 2017: A dog and its owner encountered a cougar while hiking near Cle Elum Lake. The dog confronted the cougar and was killed.