Women cyclists used a $6,000 bike to fight off a cougar who was mauling their friend: report

Cougar on the prowl - stock photo.
Cougar on the prowl - stock photo.Marcia Straub
  • Five cyclists fought off a male cougar in the Pacific Northwest to save their friend, KUOW reports.

  • The attack occurred during a ride on the Tokul Creek trail in Washington state.

  • The cougar was euthanized, and the autopsy uncovered his victim's earring, which he had swallowed.

Five female cyclists fought off a male cougar in the Pacific Northwest wilderness for 45 minutes, KUOW reports.

The cyclists from the Recycled Cycles Racing team battled the cougar to protect their friend, Keri Bergere, who was being mauled in Washington state on February 17, 2024.

Five women cyclists in their 50s to 60s had embarked on a ride at the Tokul Creek trail, east of Seattle.

They were 19 miles into their journey when a young male cougar —one of 3,600 cougars in Washington state — launched a sudden attack on Bergere, 60.

"Looking to my right, I saw the cougar's face," Bergere told KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Seattle's NPR news station. "It was just a split second, and he tackled me off my bike."

Falling into a shallow ditch with the cougar, Bergere thought her "teeth were coming loose" and could feel her "bones crushing."

Her fellow cyclists used rocks and sticks to fend off the wildcat, even stabbing it with a knife and choking the cougar to save Bergere.

They refused to back down, even as the cougar sank its teeth into Bergere's jaw and pinned her to the ground.

"I felt like it was suffocating me," she said. "I could taste the blood in my mouth."

Female mountain bikers riding on forest road on summer evening - stock photo
Female mountain bikers riding on forest road - stock photoThomas Barwick/Getty

As they fought the women experienced how powerful a cougar, capable of taking down a large deer, can be.

Annie Bilotta, 64, attempted to choke the cougar, while others resorted to desperate measures, including prying its jaws off Bergere and delivering blows with makeshift weapons.

At one point, one of the women dropped a large rock on the feline predator's head.

But eventually, they got the upper hand over the big cat.

"These ladies are not big, and they were killing this cougar," Bergere said. "They were not going to let it get me."

After 15 minutes, the cougar finally relented, allowing Bergere to escape to safety.

The women restrained the wounded animal with one of their bikes, a $6,000 cyclocross, until help arrived, per KUOW.

They pinioned the cougar for 30 minutes before an officer from the Fish & Wildlife Police arrived and shot the cougar between the shoulder blades as the women subdued him, per KUOW.

How to handle a cougar encounter

The mountain lion known as P-35 eating a kill in the Santa Susana Mountains in Southern California, December 4, 2015.Jeff Sikich/National Parks Service/Handout via Reuters

Cougars are typically reclusive and rarely threaten humans.

There are only 20 documented cougar attacks in Washington in the last century. Only two recorded incidents were fatal.

Adult male cougars average about 140 pounds but may weigh up to 180 pounds and measure 7-8 feet long, including the tail, per the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW.)

Adult males stand at about 30 inches tall at the shoulder.

Per the WDFW's guidance, in the rare event of encountering a cougar, passersby should avoid running and appear as large and assertive as possible.

Be assertive and fight back if attacked, using available objects or pepper spray as a last resort, the Department advises.

The official guidance indicates that the cyclists made the right decisions and used what they had at their disposal.

"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," the Department says.

The cyclists initially encountered two cougars, not just the young male. Heeding the advice to make themselves big — and loud, Auna Tietz started shouting, "Cougar! Cougar!"

The clamor was enough to scare off one of the cougars, but unfortunately not the one that ultimately pounced.

The autopsy of this particular cougar revealed it was healthy, so the motive behind the attack remains unclear. The autopsy also uncovered Bergere's earring, which the cougar had ripped off and swallowed.

Bergere is hanging on to the retrieved earring as a "souvenir of sorts," per KUOW.

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