Recent cougar attack raises questions about how it happened

A 60-year-old woman is recovering from a violent encounter with a cougar near Fall City on Saturday.

She suffered injuries to her face, neck, and jaw. She was with a group of mountain bikers when the attack happened.

KIRO 7 talked to a man there who fought off a cougar nearly 30 years ago and survived. 

He said he was alone when he encountered that cougar in 1996. And there is a lot he would like to know about what happened this past weekend.

“They just don’t typically go after groups of people,” said Phil Anderson. “So, I wonder about the details in that. Such a hard animal to actually see in the wild.”

Anderson is one of just eight people in the last century to be attacked in Washington state by a cougar. Two of those attacks were deadly. And memories of his own frighteningly close encounter nearly three decades ago are still fresh.

“I had two bites in the chest and a thumbnail that my hand went into the back of his mouth when I was pulling his head off my chest,” Anderson said. “And he did the gnaw thing and gnawed off my thumbnail. And then when I kicked him off, I got one claw between the webbing in my fingers. And we both went in different directions.”

Saturday afternoon, five people on mountain bikes were on a trail northeast of Fall City. They encountered two cougars. One of them, a 75-pound young male, considered a “kitten” in cougar terms, attacked.  A second cougar ran off.

KIRO 7 talked to a man who owns a cabin a couple of miles from where the attack happened.

“This is their area,” said Paul Ofsthun, who owns a cabin nearby. “This is where they live. It’s their wilderness. And unfortunately, we keep treading on their area.”

Ofsthun said the cyclists were in a very wild area.

“They were 20 miles from here,” Ofsthun said. “You got to be prepared for the wilderness. You don’t go camping and don’t take a tent.”

Anderson said he is more careful now, too. He thinks the cougar who disappeared was likely the young male’s mother.

We asked if he thinks the cougar will be found.

“I don’t think so,” Anderson said. “I mean, just cougars. If she’s mature, you know, seasoned, she’s going to disappear.”

Indeed, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said it searched Saturday afternoon with hounds and could not find the second cougar.

Now as for the young male, he was euthanized. His remains are being sent to the Washington State University lab for a necropsy.

They want to find out its age and whether it had any diseases.

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