The Deadly Cougar Attack On Two Mountain Bikers NE of Snoqualmie
Animal that attacked was
May 20, 2018
By B. Tanner
A cougar (e.g., mountain lion) named P-41 is seen here in a photo by the National Park Service.
CLICK TO ENLARGE: A rare sight. Hunter’s photo of eight cougars as they gather on a rock cliff in Douglas County. This shot was taken by a remote, motion-sensor trail-cam Dec. 23, 2010.
CLICK TO ENLARGE: Map of cougar sighting in residential neighborhood of King County two weeks ago.
CLICK TO ENLARGE Still image from video clip broadcast by KCPQ-TV Seattle taken by hiker in April showing full size cougar in same general area where fatal attack on Sunday happened. Photo credit: KCPQ-TV/John Sowatsky.
Washington State Fish & Wildlife agents with “emaciated” male cougar believed to be the one that attacked two mountain bikers in the woods NE of Snoqualmie, WA on Sunday May 19. Photo: submitted by reader.
Updated with new information 5/20 & 5/21
(SNOQUALMIE, WA.) – Fatal cougar attacks in America are so rare that your chances are better of dying from a lightning strike or from a domestic dog attack. But cougars do attack humans on rare occasions and they do kill.
This weekend in our state, two people happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a cougar attacked and killed one of them, a 32-year old man.
The rare attack happened Saturday morning in the wooded hills northeast of Snoqualmie, Washington near Lake Hancock Road and the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River. The area is east of Seattle.
The two mountain bikers were out for what should have been an enjoyable, uneventful morning ride when they were attacked by a fully grown male cougar and one of the men was killed, according to the King County Sheriff’s office.
Late in the afternoon Sunday, Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife identified the man who died in the cougar attack as 32-year old SJ Brooks and the survivor as 31-year old Issac Sederbaum.
KIRO-TV in Seattle talked with a friend of Brooks who said he was an avid biker who moved out here from Boston not long ago and loved the outdoors in the northwest. He added that Brooks had been leading cycling trips for the last year and would have been familiar with the Lake Hancock forest area where he and Sederbaum were riding on Sunday.
First responders showed up at the scene about 11:20 am. When they got there, they found the big cat standing over the body of the dead man.
Survivor rushed to Harborview
The injured biker who survived, Issac Sederbaum was stabilized at the scene and then rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with serious injuries.
Later in the afternoon hospital officials said the injured man was in satisfactory condition. He described to responders that at one point his entire head was in the cougar’s jaws, according to Capt. Alan Myers of the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
Wildlife officials used dogs to track the cougar after it was scared away from the attack area. Around 4:00 pm they found it high up in a tree not far from where the dead man’s body was found. The animal was killed. Blood samples were taken from the animal to confirm via DNA it was the animal that attacked the two men.
Meyers says the cougar that attacked the men was a 3-year-old male weighing 100 pounds and was, for its age, emaciated and skinnier than normal.
The animal’s carcass was transported to Washington State University in Pullman. There a necropsy, an autopsy on an animal, will be performed to determine if the cougar was ill or had some other medical reason to attack humans, particularly two at a time, in the relentless manner that it did.
How the attack happened
The survivor told officials they were mountain biking in the Lake Hancock forest area at about 11 am Saturday when they realized they were being stalked by the cougar so they stopped and made a lot of noise in an effort to scare the animal off, which is what people are encouraged to do in such an event by wildlife experts. The object is to let the cougar know you are a larger, more formidable opponent.
In short, they had done everything right, "by the book" as it were and their actions were effective in keeping the cougar off them, but for only a short time. As they were catching their breath and assessing what had just happened, the cougar attacked again only this time latching onto the head of the man who survived.
He eventually managed to escape the cougar’s grasp and then saw his biking companion run. The mountain lion went into chase mode, brought down the man and killed him.
The badly injured man got back on his bike and rode away, stopping about two miles from the attack where he was able to get a cell signal and dial 911 for help.
Rich Beausoleil, a state wildlife offfcial said this attack marks the second fatal mountain lion attack in Washington in the last 94 years. The last fatality happened way back in 1924 when a teenager was attacked and killed by a cougar in eastern Washington, in Okanogan County.
According to Wikipedia only 20 people in North America were killed by cougars between 1890 and 2011, including six in California. More than two-thirds of the Canadian fatalities occurred on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Cougars are with us even in our neighborhoods
A fact of life is that all animals, including cougars and bears live among us. Every year citizens report bears and cougars spotted in their residential neighborhoods sometimes even in their back yards.
See map at upper right of cougar citing in residential neighborhood in King County just two weeks ago.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains a map of cougar sightings in the state within the past 365 days that you’ll find here here .
As if to underscore the point that cougars can be found almost anywhere in our state at any time of the day or night, KCPQ-TV in Seattle broadcast on Sunday night a brief video clip taken by a hiker last month who used a trail-cam video camera.
It captured in daylight the image of a full size cougar leisurely strolling through a meadow in the same general area where the fatal attack occurred on Sunday. See still photo, upper right.
Cougars will generally avoid human contact
Cougars are generally solitary animals and shy away from humans but they are powerful predators. Males can weigh up to 200 pounds, have powerful neck and jaw muscles and can leap as high as 18 feet vertically and cover about 40 feet horizontally in a single bound.
There is virtually no chance a human can outrun a cougar, which is why wildlife experts recommend the stand-your-ground tactic, make noise and appear to make yourself look larger than the cougar in an effort to scare it off.
According to outsideonline.com the trick is, “To look big and look aggressive. Stand up tall, hold out your arms, make a lot of noise. Make it clear to the cat that you are NOT going to be an easy snack. Also, be sure to offer the cougar an exit strategy, so it won't just panic and charge straight ahead. Interestingly, dogs are not seen as a deterrent to mountain lion attacks. Most domestic dogs are easy prey for a mountain lion, so they actually can attract the big cats.”
What about pepper spray or bear spray as a deterrent to cougars? Outsideonline says, “It's a wonderful defense against mountain lions...they like all cats, have extremely sensitive noses and don't like having them abused. So, they'll respond swiftly to a dose of pepper spray, meaning they'll almost always beat a hasty retreat.”