A person was killed and another wounded after a cougar attack by Lake Hancock near North Bend on Saturday morning.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victim as 32-year-old Sonja J. Brooks “SJ,” an inclusion activist and beloved member of Seattle’s cycling community.
Brooks and the 31-year-old man, also of Seattle, were riding their mountain bikes in the area at 11 a.m. when they saw a cougar chasing them. They reportedly began to make noise to chase the cougar away and one of the riders struck the cougar with their bike, which caused it to run off. King County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ryan Abbott said the pair continued to make noise, doing exactly what is advised when hikers are approached by a cougar.
When the mountain bikers attempted to resume their ride, the cougar jumped on the man, who reported that the animal had his whole head in its mouth as it shook him around. Brooks saw this and took off running, Abbott said. The cougar then dropped its first victim and chased after the running hiker.
The first victim escaped on his bike and started pedalling away. He rode for about two miles until he was able to find cell phone reception and called 911. King County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bellevue Medics, Snoqualmie Fire Department, and Eastside Fire and Rescue, responded to the call. The man was treated on the scene and transported to Harborview Medical Center where Abbott said he is in satisfactory condition.
The deputies, Abbott said, later found a cougar with Brooks’ body in what appeared to be the animal’s den. Officers shot at the cougar, which then fled the scene. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Alan Myers said that King County and WDFW responders secured the scene and contacted a hound hunter who brought up his tracking dogs to locate the cougar.
The cougar was eventually found up in a tree 200 yards away from the den, Myers said. Officers shot and killed the animal.
“Once it was captured, it was bagged and tagged properly and brought out of the scene along with the evidence to verify that cougar was linked to the unfortunate event,” Myers said.
The cougar was taken to the state veterinarian for a necropsy and the King County Medical examiner will conduct an autopsy on the victim. Myers said they will then compare reports and use forensic analysis and DNA to verify the cougar that was captured was the one that attacked the victim.
Abbott said it is currently unknown why the cougar attacked the bikers, stating the these attacks are so rare that the fatality is the first in Washington since 1924. Myers said it is extremely unusual for cougars to attack humans as they are shy animals that usually hunt smaller animals like deer, rabbits and goats.
It’s important to note, he said, that if anyone encounters a cougar in the wild they should stand their ground, make noise and throw things at it instead of running away.