Cougar attacks 8-year-old, leading to closures in Washington’s Olympic National Park


(NEW YORK) — An 8-year-old was attacked by a cougar Saturday, prompting authorities to close Lake Angeles and Heather Park in Olympic National Park, Washington, until further notice.

Authorities were notified at 6:30 p.m. local time on Saturday that a child had been attacked by a cougar while camping at Lake Angeles, the National Park Service, Olympia branch, said in a release. The child’s mom screamed at the big cat and the cougar abandoned its attack, according to the NPS.

Park officials responded to the scene and escorted the family back to the trailhead area after the child’s medical condition was assessed and stabilized. The child suffered minor injuries, according to the NPS, and the 8-year-old was taken to a hospital to be evaluated.

As a result of the incident with the cougar, all of the campers at Lake Angeles were evacuated, and portions of Olympic National Park were closed to the public.

“Due to the extreme nature of this incident, we are closing the Lake Angeles area and several trails in the vicinity,” Olympic National Park Wildlife Biologist, Tom Kay, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Lake Angeles Trail, Heather Park Trail, Switchback Trail, and the entire Klahhane Ridge Trail are closed until further notice.”

Wildlife personnel with experience in cougar tracking joined park law enforcement on Sunday at 5 a.m. PT at the spot in the Lake Angeles area where the cat was last seen for a search. According to the NPS, as part of the Olympic National Park’s protocol, the cougar will be euthanized if it is located, followed by a necropsy. The exam would be done as NPS said attacks on humans are “extraordinarily rare.” Cougars aren’t seen very often. However, they do live in the Olympic National Park area.

The NPS advised visitors to be prepared for an encounter and not hike or jog alone. Authorities also suggest keeping children close to adults and within the site. Also, pets should be left at home.

Finally, the NPS advised that anyone encountering a cougar should not run as it could “trigger the cougar’s attack instinct,” the organization said in their release. To avoid this scenario, people should group together, try to appear as large as possible, make as much noise as possible, and throw rocks or objects at the cougar. Further information can be found on the Olympic National Park website.

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