Cougar stalks and attacks mountain bikers on Washington trail

A group of mountain bikers managed to pin down a cougar and save their fellow cyclist, who was left with neck and face injuries after she was stalked and attacked by the animal.

The incident occurred on Saturday while the woman was out cycling with four other people on a trail northeast of Fall City in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.

The cyclists were able to restrain the cougar and called emergency services. A wildlife officer arrived at the scene and killed the animal, the King County Sheriff’s Office said to CNN.

The cyclists pinned down the attacking cougar with a bike before first responders got to the scene, according to initial reports, the police said.

"They 100 per cent saved their friend’s life,” WDFW Police Sergeant Carlo Pace told local outlet KOMO.

"They were able to pin down a good-sized lion with its claws and teeth and everything else under a mountain bike until we arrived," he said.

An officer shot the cougar with a firearm, Becky Elder, a spokesperson with the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Police, told the outlet.

“The public’s safety is our priority generally during a human-wildlife incident, we lethally remove the animal involved,” Ms Elder said.

Eyewitnesses at the scene said they saw a second cougar run through the scene, but WDFW police could not find it after an exhaustive search with the aid of hounds, they said in their statement.

As a result of the cougar attacking the woman, she sustained neck and face injuries but is in stable condition. Police said to CNN that the injuries were either from a claw or a bite from one of the cats; she was hospitalised but her injuries were non-life threatening.

“It jumped from the side of the road and latched onto her, and her friends were able to detach and fight this thing off," Mr Pace said to KOMO.

The wildlife authorities removed a young male 75-pound cougar as they arrived at the scene and are submitting the animal for examination at the Washington State University lab.

The exam will release more information on its age and will be tested for diseases and what condition its body is in.

Despite the terrifying incident, Ms Elder reassured that cougar attacks on humans are “extremely rare”.

“In Washington state, there have been two fatal cougar attacks and approximately 20 other recorded encounters that resulted in human injury in the last 100 years,” she said to CNN.

As of 2022, there are around 3,600 cougars in Washington state, the WDFW said on their website.

They advise that on the rare occasion, you will confront a cougar, pick up small children, do not run and face the animal. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away, try to appear larger than the cougar and shout, wave your arms, and throw things at it if it shows signs of aggression.

If the cougar attacks, fight back with any object or even bare hands, if you are aggressive enough, the cougar will flee, the wildlife authority said.