September 13, 2002
Contact: Capt. Ralph Woods, (360) 249-4628, ext. 226
or Rocky Spencer, (425) 888-9467
or Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408
Summit Lake area residents urged to follow cougar safety precautions following attack on jogger
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is urging residents of the Summit Lake area west of Olympia, to take precautions outdoors after a cougar attacked a woman jogger Wednesday evening, scratching her arm.
Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers and hound hunters searched for the animal yesterday afternoon and evening, and are continuing their efforts today.
Meanwhile, they plan to distribute safety information today to residents in the area, a growing residential area surrounded by timberlands, about five miles west of Olympia.
According to the 31-year-old victim, her encounter with the cougar occurred between 6 and 7 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 11) while she was out jogging with her dog in the hills along the west side of Summit Lake. She described the cougar as between 80 and 90 pounds.
When the cougar first approached her, she drove it off by yelling and waving her arms over her head. But some 20 minutes later while she was on her return run, the animal jumped from a bushy area, scratching her forearm through her jacket with a single claw. The woman fell down and the cougar jumped over her and disappeared up a hillside.
Fish and wildlife officers were not notified of the incident until mid-day Thursday. They immediately interviewed the woman and brought a hound hunter to the area. The hounds were unable to pick up a scent, due to the hot dry weather and time lapse since the incident. The officers returned early this morning with two hound hunters, in an effort to pick up fresh scent while dew was still on the ground.
"We plan to continue our efforts until the cougar is located, said WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork.
Besides following standard safety measures, joggers in particular should be cautious, WDFW authorities said.
"Joggers, particularly slightly-built individuals, can be more susceptible to cougar attacks because their size and motion mimics the appearance of prey animals such as deer," said Rocky Spencer, WDFW's dangerous wildlife expert.
Spencer urges residents in the Summit Lake area, as well as others who live in cougar habitat such as wooded foothills, to follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of a conflict with a cougar:
- Keep pets indoors or in secure kennels at night for safety.
- Do not leave pet food or food scraps outside.
- Store garbage in cans with tight-fitting lids so odors do not attract small mammals.
- When children are playing outdoors, closely supervise them and be sure they are indoors by dusk.
- Light walkways and remove any heavy vegetation or landscaping near the house.
- Avoid feeding wildlife or landscaping with shrubs and plants that deer prefer to eat. Remember, predators follow prey.
- Avoid hiking or jogging alone.
- Be aware of your surroundings, particularly when hiking, jogging or resting in areas with dense vegetation. Look for tracks, scratch piles, and partially covered droppings.
These actions will increase the safety of people who do encounter a cougar:
- Stop, stand tall and don't run. Pick up small children immediately. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack; a cougar's instinct is to chase.
- Face the cougar, talk to it firmly and slowly back away. Always leave the animal an escape route.
- Try to appear larger than the cougar by getting above it. (e.g., stepping up onto a stump). If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your size.
- Do not take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
- Never approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens. Never corner the animal or offer it food.
- If the animal does not flee and shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), be more assertive. Shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
- If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing– even bare hands. Generally, if you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake.
Living with Wildlife in Washington - Cougars