Seattle man recounts harrowing encounter with a cougar

VIDEO: Man who survived cougar attack

A Seattle man who survived a cougar attack in 1996 opened up about his experience, as wildlife authorities are trying to determine why a mountain lion attacked and killed someone over the weekend.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the cougar that attacked two people this weekend was slightly underweight. The cougar may have been searching for food when it attacked two cyclists on Saturday; injuring Isaac Sederbaum and killing S.J. Brooks.

In the last 100 years, five people in Washington state have survived an encounter with a cougar including Sederbaum. Phil Anderson is another survivor of a cougar attack.

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"Something told me to turn around," said Phil Anderson.  "He was about 15, 20 in a full spring coming at my back."

Twenty-two years ago, Phil Anderson was in the Olympic Mountains when he ended up in a fight for his life with a young cougar.

"I stopped, made myself look big," said Anderson. "I yelled at him and he immediately came up the ramp of the trail and jumped right at my face."

He moved to the side and the big cat kept going.

"In fact I was able to push off of his body as he went past," Anderson said. "And when he hit the ground before his rear legs even hit the ground, he had his mouth on my shins."

Anderson, a former wrestler and Army paratrooper, was in the fight of his life.

"I threw my legs around his torso locked him up," he said,  "threw my arms underneath and grabbed him by the scruff, by the neck.  And when we landed on my back, I pulled him in tight to my body so that his legs would go past it could be that the kids thing that they do when they're on their backs."

"I rolled him over," he said, "I pinned his arms down with his front legs with my forearms and then I sunk a choke into his throat and I choked as hard as I could."

But the cougar wasn't done.

"I put in a second choke, same thing happened," he said. "Soon as it felt like it was starting to work, he fought."

The cougar bit Anderson twice in the chest.

"I pulled his head off of my chest, but my thumb went into the back of his mouth," Anderson said. "He gnawed my thumb nail off. And then when I got my foot up in between us, I kicked him off and one claw caught the webbing of my hand. And I ran down to the trailhead. He ran that way."

There have been just six cougar attacks on humans in Washington state in the last 100 years, most of them in Eastern Washington. In 1924, a teenager was mauled to death. Seventy-two years later came Phil Anderson's encounter. In 1998, a cougar dragged a 5-year-old girl by the head, severely injuring her. A year later, 4-year-old Jacob Walsh was attacked near Kettle Falls.

"The cougar flipped me around," said Walsh, "and I just remember getting drugged to the bushes."

Walsh is now 22 years old. He said he was rescued by his grandfather.

"I had over 200 stitches," Walsh said.  "Mostly my neck and face."

There are very few people who have survived a cougar attack.

"There's not a lot of people with these experiences," Anderson said.

Anderson said he feels for Isaac Sederbaum, the 31-year-old man who survived Saturday's attack.

"He's got a really rough road ahead of him, I'm sure," said Anderson. "And I'd be more than willing to talk to him."

Anderson said his experience actually made him love the outdoors even more.  And he said the cougar remains his favorite wild animal.