"Cougars will become a major life threatening problem for outdoor enthusiasts in the next few years." --- Thom, around 1997---
Welcome to the cougars(mtn lions/ pumas) and mtn bikes page. The purpose of this page is to track "incidents" of the new generation of cougars being a problem with people in the outdoors. Sorta like hikers tracking "incidents" involving bicycles and hikers. The difference being, of course, that bikes don't kill hikers, and yet bikes get banned and cougars get encouraged. Go figure. The current focus is on incidents in the greater Seattle area of Washington. I am especially interested in figuring out "survival tips" and sharing them with others.
This is not a page for bleeding heart, Noble Cause, arm chair, wanna be, outdoors types.
You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, additions, corrections, question.
More fun than bargained for:
by Janet Burkitt
Seattle Times Eastside bureau, 0ctober 28, 1998
Craig Perkins is a biker, backpacker, skier, snowboarder and - as of Friday - poster child for how to handle an encounter with a cougar. When one of the animals chased the Bellevue man as he biked through a forested area near Bonney Lake, Pierce County, he did everything right.
This wasn't necessarily intentional. "I wasn't thinking," said Perkins,37. "Partly, I was in disbelief that there was a big old mountain lion behind me." But it was running full-speed toward Perkins late Friday afternoon as he rode on a narrow trail in a popular area for mountain bikers called Victor Falls.
When it pounced out of the woods just feet behind him "I saw a grayish flash and thought it was a dog," he said. He turned and saw the animal, which he says appeared to be about 3 1/2 feet high and 90 to 100 pounds.
Perkins assumed the cougar thought he was a deer, and would retreat when it realized he wasn't. But when Perkins turned around again and the animal was about 25 feet behind him, " I started freaking and started pedaling even faster."He estimates he was going down the flat stretch of trail at about 35mph, and was about 60 feet from what he knew was a rocky uphill climb. "I knew I couldn't beat him up the hill," he said, so at the base, he jumped off his bike, hoisted it above his head and "started roaring (like) I thought a mountain lion would," he said.
When the animal kept running, he brought his 25-pound bike in front of him like a shield and kept yelling. "The whole time, I'm thinking, `God, I don't want to have to wrestle this thing,' " he said. But when the cougar was about 6 feet away from him, it suddenly veered right into the woods. Perkins couldn't hear the animal running through the brush, so he started swiping his bike at the bushes until he heard it running away.
"It sounds like he did several of the right things," said Rocky Spencer, a wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Trying to appear as large as possible and making noise can scare the animal away. "And one of the most important things is not breaking eye contact." Cougars are not noted for their endurance, he said, and an experienced biker on a flat or downhill path may be able to outlast the animal. People on foot should not try to flee, but instead should face the animal and try to appear as threatening as possible, Spencer said.
From what I have heard, cougars (also known as mtn lions or puma) were just about pushed to extinction, possibly with justifiable reason. Then some Noble Cause types figured that the cuddly looking kitties should be protected and brought back. Funny that these people have no problem with the harmless coyote being ruthlessly killed off. Also I bet most of them don't spend much time alone in the wilds.
Catch is when the cougars came back, they are now virtually a new species, and have lost fear of people to the point of considering people a legitimate, stalkable, food source. Cougars now have NO predators and numbers are expanding at what should be considered alarming rates. Also note that cougars have one of the larger hunting ranges, compared to many other predators, so a few cougars go a long ways.
What does this mean? Odds are getting pretty good that you will run into a cougar in what seems like a very tame, "non-wilderness", almost suburban setting.
What to expect? Cougars like to go for the back of the neck. Bending down is NOT a good idea, whether to pick up a rock to throw at them, or to tie your shoelace, when you don't know they are there. Keep your ears open for rustling in the underbrush, and watch for tracks in the trail , following others or when back tracking over yours. "Reading the Trail" is a fun skill to develop in general.
What to do? SO FAR, its seems I have heard that with big cats you need to maintain eye contact. Glance down and they are on you. Face them and don't expose your neck. Bike helmets might help to confuse them, but I am still trying to find out if people in these incidents have been wearing helmets or not. Do NOT run, unless maybe you have a fast downhill to help you. Face 'em, stand tall, use your bike to make you bigger and taller and maybe even to act as a shield. Scream and yell at them.
I don't believe in guns. Will it come to that some day? I hope not! Being a defenseless and clawless animal myself, I do carry a "claw" to hopefully have a prayer of some chance if it comes to the cougar deciding to make it a contact sport. This requires carrying a handy, clip-on, one-handed opening, "pocket knife". (see Tools page ) And remember all that "trail whittling" I have been pushing to help keep the trails open in the fast growing Northwest? Coincidently this has also been martial arts practice to have a prayer of a chance of reaching the knife and deploying and using it, while under attack. I do not recommend tangling with a cougar, but seriously... If you have a choice of tangling with a cougar with your bare, clawless hands or with a sharp blade, what do you choose? Plus you can use the knife as a very handy tool in the meantime, in the hoped for scenario that you never need it for attempted defense, unlike a gun, which doesn't do crap for clearing trails. :-)
Park bicyclist conquers cat
by Mike Dawson Peninsula Daily News Sunday, May 26, 1996
PORT ANGELES - Of all the humans the cougar could have attacked Friday, it had the rotten luck to tangle with Phil Anderson, dog wrestler, jujitsu fan.
"I went to my back, wrapped my legs around him, rolled over and mounted him and started choking him, choking him forever," Anderson said Saturday. "It was just nuts."
Anderson, 28, a Port Angeles mountain bike enthusiast, spent Saturday on the couch, healing from the cougar attack in Olympic National Park.
He had been riding his mountain bike on the Wolf Creek Trail Friday afternoon.The trail is an old road that runs from Whiskey Bend on the Elwha River to Hurrican Ridge.Whiskey Bend is about 20 miles west of Port Angeles. It is also the head of the popular Hume's Ranch Trail.Anderson had ridden his bike up Wolf Creek Trail for about two hours. On the way down, he stopped 150 feet from the parking lot, dismounted the bike and removed his helmet. He picked up a sweatshirt he had left trail-side on his way up. He had just pulled the heavy, black sweatshirt down over this head when he spied his opponent.
"He just moved out of the shadows, so smoothly and quickly."
When the cat came at him, he started running backwards, he said. He figured the cougar weighed about 80 pounds. The cougar kept coming, then leapt at Anderson's chest. Anderson fell to his back, locked his legs around the cougar, flipped over and buried his thumbs in the animal's throat. He kept the front paws pinned back with his forearms, he said. He had the cat pretty much subdued, but it wouldn't die. "I was watching him go in and out," Anderson said. "We were at a stalemate." To his surprise, the cat made no noise while it struggled, Anderson said. He, however, was shouting for help.After about two and a half or three minutes, the cat still wriggling, Anderson got his thumb in the cougar's mouth. He just smashed it," Anderson said.
That gave the cat the edge. As Anderson lost his grip, that cat's claws went into a whirl, ripping at the thick, baggy sweatshirt. Some of the claws caught Anderson's chest. "He put a lot more holes in my sweatshirt than he did in me," Anderson said.
Not wanting any more, the combatants exploded away from each other and ran. Anderson ran down the trail, grabbed a baseball bat in his van and returned for his bike. The cat had stuck around, still looking for food. "He carried off my bag with four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in it," Anderson said. It was the end of Anderson's first cougar sighting.
Anderson is a short, wiry, high-energy kind of guy with powerful arms and legs, a flat stomach and short hair. He's an Olympic Peninsula version of a surfer dude, with a passion for speed and gravity. He's also a mountain bike guide and unemployed waiter.The cougar, rather than picking on a tasty tourist, jumped a former college wrestler. And he has some other skills that prepared him for cougar fighting, he said. "I've been doing this jujitsu dog thing." While unemployed last winter, he spent a lot of time wrestling with a 120-pound German Shepherd named Forest, who was named for the trees.
Forest, who loves to wrestle, has been getting a taste of jujitsu, too. Anderson employs a move he picked up from "ultimate fighting," a new anything-goes sport in which people fight without gloves. The move is a defensive tactic, to help a little guy take down a big guy and choke him out. Anderson had already mastered the move on Forest. So when the cougar came along, Anderson was ready. "It's something I think about all the time," he said.
He had good reason to imagine a cat fight. Cougar sightings have been reported in the Hurricane Ridge and Elwha districts of the Park once a week for the last month, ranger Gary Gissell said. At least two cougars, including one with a limp, have been identified. There may be one or two more, he said. Rangers don't plan to hunt down Anderson's opponent, he said. With so many in the area, there would be no way to tell which one to hunt. Besides, he said, Anderson may have turned the cougar's attention to rabbits. "Hopefull, he may have turned the cougar off from hunting humans," he said. Gissell said he looked over the fight scene and found cougar tracks and signs of a struggle.
He also learned, through Anderson's admission, that Anderson was riding on a trail where bikes are forbidden.The fine is $50. However, Gissel let the injured wrestler off the hook. "The cougar was his warning," he said.
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Thom's Editorial: I saw the interviews with the guy on the TV
newscasts. Couple of things tick me off. The Ranger Ricks blame the
encounter on "illegal mtn biking" which actually seems irrelevant to
the situation and in fact he was off the bike when it actually
happened. Secondly I am amazed about how callous the attitude of the
Forest Service folks is regarding human life, and their follow up on
this. I am shocked by their "why bother" and might as well let people
get killed, rather than put forth effort. This seems to be too common
an attitude in the western Washington Forest disService.
Posted in dirtworld forum:
Posted by Ron - Mon Apr 26 20:42:57 1999
Subject: The Tree Farm April 11, 1999.
Encountered a very large, male cougar about 1 mile into the ride on the jeep trail. We got up close and personal (about 10 meters or so) or should I say a little too close for my comfort.
Posted by NWBiker - Thu May 6 05:27:05 1999
Subject: 'nother cougar sighting-Tree Farm
Accidently came within 15 or 20 feet of a quite large cougar at the Tree Farm on May 5th.
I was riding the singletrack back down to my truck after finally finding that killer, er, thing (statue, sculpture?).Went flying by the cougar going about 15mph, and I'm sure it saw me before I saw it. I heard the rustle in the bushes (loud!) and saw it turn tail and run. Man, did I ever smoke the rest of that trail!!!