A family’s dogs helped chase off a cougar that was attacking their child at a Leavenworth park yesterday evening, likely preventing further injury.
The juvenile suffered minor injuries and the young adult male mountain lion was tracked down by officers with dogs and killed later that night.
The incident occurred at Enchantment Park, along the banks of the Wenatchee River below this Bavarian-themed Central Washington town.
What’s believed to have been the same cougar had been seen earlier in the day “acting abnormally,” approaching people, according to WDFW Capt. Michael Jewell, who added that after they got big, the animal acted normally again by running away.
Officers responding to the scene did a “thorough search,” but in the heat of the day, no sign of the cougar was found. The plan was for WDFW officers with dogs to come back Sunday morning, when tracking conditions would be better, but in the meanwhile, working with city officials, the park was closed.
But about four hours later, around 9:30 p.m., Chelan County and Washington State Patrol dispatch received calls that a cougar attack had just occurred.
“The family had some dogs with them and they released them and successfully intervened and chased the cougar away,” said Jewell.
It was reported killed around 1:30 in the morning. Jewell said he was “really grateful” for assistance from state troopers and county sheriff’s deputies.
Hound hunting for cougars was banned in Washington in 1996 by voter initiative, and a bill introduced in the state legislature this year that would have allowed a pilot program again in Chelan County didn’t get further than a public hearing.
Jewell said the cougar “appeared to be in healthy condition. There were no obvious signs of illness or injury.”
Leavenworth is surrounded on all sides by wildlife habitat, he pointed out.
“It is close to town, but it is not unusual for us to have larger animals,” he said.
He said cougars occasionally spend time in urban environments.
“These incidents are rare,” he emphasized. “Our primary goal is the safety of the public.”
Jewell advised recreationalists to be “vigilant” in the outdoors. “Getting big” can help, but this attack follows on one last May near North Bend in which a mountain lion killed one of two bicylists and injured the other.
That one also involved a young male and the two bicyclists initially fended it off, but it came back when they tried to pedal off.
A lab analysis found no abnormalities in that animal.
Jewell said more testing would be performed on the carcass of the cougar involved in yesterday’s attack.
“We’re really relieved no serious injuries were sustained,” he said of the child.