On Saturday July 29, an aggressive cougar attacked an 8-year-old girl at a campground in Olympic National Park. The attack prompted officials to close portions of the park and evacuate a number of campers—but the child escaped the incident with minor injuries after her mother’s screams caused the attacking mountain lion to retreat.
“Luckily the mom responded perfectly and quickly and started yelling and screaming at this cougar,” Amos Almy, Olympic National Park acting public information officer told KING. “I think they realized that it was a pretty scary incident. We’re so happy that it was not a huge incident and that the kid is safe.”
According to KOMO, rangers are looking for the cougar, and it will be euthanized when it’s found. A necropsy may help determine the reason for the rare attack. The last attack in the area involved a mountain biker in 2018. According to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, there have only been two fatal cougar attacks in the state since 1924.
“That almost never happens and it’s a sign of very, very unusual behavior,” Almy said. “When you have an animal like that behaving so unusually, you have to kind of take extreme measures…It’s important to remember, we’re park rangers. We’re wildlife biologists. We don’t enjoy killing wildlife. That is not why we signed on to this job. But in circumstances like this, it is warranted.”
Making noise is one way to avoid a deadly conflict with a cougar, which is why this cougar “casually abandoned its attack” wrote the park service in its press release. Another defensive tactic is grouping up with other people to look larger and throwing rocks or your water bottle at the advancing animal. The U.S. Forest Service recommends that you continue facing an approaching puma and pick up small children or pets without turning around or bending over. If the stalk turns into an attack, fight back, and try to stay standing. That’s the best way to protect your head and neck.