On Saturday, SJ Brooks, the co-founder of Friends on Bikes, a biking community for women, queer, trans people of color, was killed in a mountain lion attack in the Cascade Mountains near North Bend, about 30 miles east of Seattle. Another biker, Isaac Sederbaum, who was with the victim, was injured and admitted to Harbor View for treatment. According to a spokesperson, Sederbaum was in satisfactory condition as of Monday morning.
Deadly mountain lion attacks are rare: This was only the second recorded instance of a deadly mountain lion encounter in Washington state in the past century. According to the sheriff's office, the two victims were biking on a remote road when contact with the mountain lion occurred. The animal mauled Sederbaum, then as Brooks was running away, the animal charged Brooks, and Sederbaum was able to escape and ride two miles until he could get reception on his cell phone.
When law enforcement arrived at the scene, the mountain lion was standing over the victim's body. They shot at the animal, it ran away, and later, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used hound dogs to track a cougar, which they killed and will use DNA tests to confirm is the mountain lion in question.
The two bikers reportedly did nothing to provoke the attack, but the National Park Service's standard advice is that if you an encounter a mountain lion acting aggressively, raise your arms, make yourself as big as possible, speak loudly, firmly, and slowly back away. A 2009 study out of University of California, Davis backs this up: Researchers found that out of 185 mountain lion attacks in the U.S. and Canada, those who ran had a slightly higher rate of death. The same study found that almost 40 percent of people who backed away slowly escaped without serious injury or death, and those who were least likely to get out alive were those who froze up. Only 26 percent of people who froze in the face of a mountain lion attack escaped.
"Immobility may be interpreted by the mountain lion as a sign that you are vulnerable prey," study author Richard Coss told Scientific American.
Mountain lions, also known as cougars, pumas, and catamounts, are the largest cat in North America. They are now extinct in most of the continent due to habitat loss, hunting, and predator control programs. There are an estimated 2,000 cougars left in Washington state. Officials from Fish and Wildlife said the suspected cougar was emaciated.
Remember that this summer: If you see a cougar, get big,
avoid MAINTAIN eye contact, slowly back away, and remember whose woods you're in.