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cougar follow up

As a follow-up to our previous post, Cyclists Defend Against Cougar in Uncommon Encounter East of Seattle, Resulting in Injuries, we have some further details. In the serene setting of the upper Snoqualmie Valley, a harrowing tale of survival, bravery, and community unfolded last Saturday, spotlighting the inherent risks of nature’s unpredictability. Keri McCorkle, a 60-year-old revered figure in the women’s biking community, endured a life-altering encounter with a cougar while cycling on a popular trail with four friends near the towns of North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Fall City.

Keri’s children, Kendal and Alexa McCorkle, have shared their mother’s daunting journey towards recovery, detailing the extensive injuries she sustained, including bites to her face, jaw, and neck, alongside permanent nerve damage. “Mom was in the middle of the train with two riders ahead and two riders behind her when she was tackled off her bike by a 75-pound cougar,” said one of her daughters. “The cougar latched onto her lower jaw,” their account continues. “Her courageous friends quickly jumped to action to save her life as well as their own. Ultimately it was their quick thinking that saved her life. They spent the next 15 minutes trying to fight the animal off of her. Finally, he released and the ladies were able to get the animal away from her and had to hold him down with a bike to keep him from continuing the attack. They held him down for about 30 minutes until officers arrived at the scene. Because of these heroic women, we still have our mom with us. We are forever grateful to them all.”

Despite the ordeal, a heartening photo shared by KOMO News’s Hannah Knowles captures Keri standing and offering a thumbs-up from the corridors of Harborview Hospital, a testament to her resilience and fighting spirit after being treated and released.

On that fateful day, Keri, a pillar of strength and inspiration in her community, was riding in formation, flanked by two cyclists ahead and two behind. In a sudden and unforeseen attack, a 75-pound cougar pounced, forcefully bringing her to the ground and clamping onto her lower jaw. What followed was a display of extraordinary courage and quick thinking by her companions. They sprang into action, fighting off the cougar to save Keri and, by extension, themselves. Their swift response and determination ultimately led to Keri’s rescue. The intense struggle with the cougar lasted around 15 minutes before the animal relented, allowing the women to use a bicycle to pin it down and prevent further attacks until help arrived.

The aftermath of this terrifying incident was punctuated by a desperate 911 call made by one of the cyclists, pleading for immediate assistance and armed intervention to neutralize the cougar. “We need a helicopter on location and we need someone with a gun to kill the cougar,” said the caller of the 911 call. “We are right now we have a bicycle on top of the cougar and he’s fighting back.”

The prompt response from a state fish and wildlife officer, who arrived on scene to continue medical aid and manage the situation, was crucial. Lieutenant Erik Olson from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lauded the heroic efforts of those present, acknowledging that their actions played a pivotal role in averting a potentially tragic outcome.

The cougar, identified as a young male weighing 75 pounds, was neutralized at the scene. Its remains were sent to a Washington State University lab for examination to ascertain its health condition and check for any diseases or factors that might explain its aggressive behavior. Despite efforts, a second cougar reported in the vicinity could not be located.

The WDFW continues to emphasize the rarity of cougar attacks and offers guidance on how to act in the event of an encounter. Yet, as the Snoqualmie Valley community reels from this recent attack, the valor demonstrated by Keri and her companions stands as a powerful narrative of survival, underscoring the strength of human spirit and the bonds of solidarity in the face of nature’s unforeseen challenges.

The recent cougar attack in the upper Snoqualmie Valley is not an isolated incident in Washington’s recent history, casting a shadow of concern over the safety of outdoor enthusiasts in the region. Notably, this attack unfolded in proximity to the location of a tragic event in 2018, where cyclist SJ Brooks lost their life to a cougar attack under similarly unforeseen circumstances. The examination of the cougar responsible for that attack, a 3-year-old male, provided no clear insights into the motives behind its aggression. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) concluded that, although the animal was on the lean side, its overall weight and condition were typical for a young cougar, leaving more questions than answers about what triggers such rare attacks.

Further incidents underscore the unpredictable nature of wildlife encounters in Washington. In 2022, a young girl, just 9 years old, faced a terrifying confrontation with a cougar in Northeast Washington. She survived but had to overcome serious injuries sustained during the attack, highlighting the potential danger these wild animals can pose even to the youngest among us. More recently, in July of the previous year, an 8-year-old boy experienced a cougar attack while camping in Olympic National Park. Fortunately, his injuries were minor, but the incident added another layer of urgency to the ongoing conversation about wildlife safety and preparedness.

These incidents, spread over a few years and affecting individuals of varying ages, underscore a critical need for heightened awareness and safety measures for residents and visitors to cougar habitats. They prompt a reevaluation of how humans and wildlife can coexist safely, with an emphasis on education, preventive strategies, and, when necessary, swift response measures to protect human life without unduly harming wildlife populations. The pattern of these attacks, though rare, serves as a somber reminder of the inherent risks of venturing into the natural habitats of predatory wildlife and the importance of preparedness for all, from the youngest children to experienced adults.

As always, be safe and be prepared.


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