NORTH BEND. Wash. -- A mountain bike, from what was supposed to be a fun Saturday ride with friends in the woods, now taken as evidence of a deadly cougar attack near North Bend.
“The animal was found very close, across a gully from where the victim was placed,” said Captain Alan Myers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
He says a bloodhound was used to track the cougar they believe was responsible for the attack.
That cougar was a male weighing about 100 pounds.
Myers says two friends were biking through a wooded area on private property, where a permit is required for recreational activities, when a cougar suddenly appeared before the two men just before noon.
“They stopped, they did the right thing, made a lot of noise; one person was reported to have swung the bike at the animal and scared it off for a bit,” said Myers.
He says the wooded habitat in the area is prime for wildlife like bears, cougars, deer and foxes.
Myers said as the two men were collecting themselves and getting ready to leave -- after the initial encounter -- the cougar returned and pounced on one man.
“At one point, that victim reported his whole head was inside the jaws of that cougar and has injuries to go along with that report,” said Myers.
That victim, a 31-year-old man from New York City, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and was listed in satisfactory condition Saturday night.
Officials say the injured man told them his friend ran into the woods while he was getting attacked.
That’s when the cougar let go of him, chasing the friend who was later found dead.
That man has not been identified, but was a 32-year-old man from Seattle, according to the King County Sheriff's Office.
“It’s extremely rare, the second fatality of a cougar in Washington state in 100 years,” said Myers.
Over the same time period, 15 other incidents have resulted in injuries.
The attack surprised the hiking community who say it’s common to see bears and the occasional mountain lion.
“It was kind of scary to know we were walking around in the same area,” said one hiker who captured footage of a mountain lion on April 29th, not far from where this cougar attack happened.
“I’m prepared for wildlife when I come up here, but it’s always a risk factor," said John Sowatasky, who often goes off-roading and hiking in the area.
"It won’t keep me away, but it’ll make me more alert.”
The surrounding area was closed for a few hours before reopening in the late afternoon.
Myers says the cougar was taken to a state veterinary office where a necropsy will be performed.
Officials hope to determine whether the animal had a disease or other medical reason to attack the human.
Myers added that while seeing a cougar is rare, people who hike in wooded areas should carry bear spray -- it can also work on cougars.
He says never run if you see a cougar, instead get loud, stand your ground, throw things at the animal and once they leave then you can get away.
Running will always trigger an instinct to chase for animals like cougars.