A true survivor, the young Washington girl is currently recovering from multiple cougar attack wounds to her head and upper body.
Her trip began as a joyful camping adventure in northwest Washington with family and friends. But the little one, a Stevens County native, would soon find herself fighting for her life against one of North America’s most lethal predators.
The 9-year-old, whos’ name is nondisclosed, was wandering up a nearby trail with two of her friends Saturday morning. Without warning, out of the wilds came a cougar aiming for the kill. The girl would become the mountain lion’s first target, but she fought back fiercely – saving her own life as her two friends ran for theirs.
Answering cries for help, nearby adults rushed to the scene to find the 9-year-old “covered in blood.” Soon after, she was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she remains. Surgery was required for multiple attack wounds to her head and upper body.
According to the Seattle Times, present adults found the young cougar, a male, and killed it at the scene near Fruitland, Washington. Staci Lehman, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, confirms the big cat was dead at the scene.
“Our primary thoughts are with the girl and the family,” Lehman offers in a news release. “In this instance, this little girl did nothing wrong,” she adds. “It happened so quickly, and there’s nothing she could have done to prevent it.”
Washington Cougar Attack Prompts Safety Concerns
This rare cougar attack has led to the Washington department recovering the body for testing. An extenuating circumstance, such as famine, or disease, like rabies, could be a culprit behind this unusual behavior.
Lehman reiterates that cougar attacks are rare. Only two fatalities are known in Washington State over the last century among 20 total attacks in that same timeframe. In May 2018, a cougar attacked and killed one mountain biker and seriously injured another northeast of Snoqualmie. The last known fatality prior was in 1924.
Cougars, also known as pumas or mountain lions, are solitary and secretive hunters. The species typically avoids humans or other equally-sized animals, but an increase in modern encounters is likely due to their habitat becoming more and more inhabited by people.
What To Do If a Cougar Attacks You
Adult cougars attack prey with immense strength, with deer being their favored prey in Washington. Weighing the same as an average adult human, however, these big cats are more than capable of taking down people as prey.
If you find yourself in a cougar encounter, Lehman offers a few tips that could save your life. “Do not turn around. Don’t take your eyes off the animal. Don’t run,” she says. “Fight back as hard as you can and try to stay on your feet.”
If you see a mountain lion, take these additional NPS precautions:
- Do not run
- Shout in a low voice and wave your arms or hold open your coat to look large and threatening
- Maintain eye contact and do not crouch down
- Throw sticks or rocks
- If an attack occurs, fight back
Washington’s wildlife department also has an extensive list of tips to avoid conflict with cougars.