The Seattle Times reported
that two mountain bike riders were stalked by a cougar while they were cycling on a dirt road in the forest near Snoqualmie, a popular riding destination east of Seattle, Washington. After facing off the cat, the two continued on their way, after which the cougar returned and attacked 31 year old Seattle resident Isaac Sederbaum. According to Sederbaum, his friend, identified as S.J. Brooks, tried to flee into the woods, which captured the attention of the cat and precipitated a fatal attack on Brooks. Reportedly, Sederbaum then hopped on his bike and rode two miles in search of cell phone reception to call for emergency assistance. Brook was found dead and was apparently being dragged off the trail by the cat when authorities using tracking dogs located and killed the animal.
Fish and Wildlife officials said attacks are rare and that this was only the second fatality by a cougar in Washington State in nearly 100 years. The cougar was in "emaciated" condition and is being examined by veterinarians to assess why the attack may have occurred. Rich Beausoleil, the state’s bear and cougar specialist said that the state's cougar population has been stable at 2100 adults. "Emotions can run high after a report such as today’s" he said. “Hopefully, nobody will break the law.”
How much should mountain bikers worry about cougar attacks? Chances of an attack are minimal. In the past century, 18 non-fatal attacks were recorded in Washington, with seven requiring minor hospitalization. Top predators are always a risk, so riders should be prepared. The two mountain bikers initially responded correctly, reportedly, by facing it off, making lots of noise and waving their bikes, which successfully drove the cat off. Be aware of potential wildlife risks, and it's a good idea to check with local authorities for a specific danger in unfamiliar riding areas.
Our condolences go out to the friends and family of S.J. Brooks. See the Seattle Times follow-up story.