There are roughly 2,000 adult cougars in Washington, but attacks are rare.

LEAVENWORTH — It’s unclear why a young male cougar attacked a small child in Leavenworth on Saturday, but the incident was rare — only the 20th known cougar attack in Washington history, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

There are about 2,000 adult cougars living in Washington, but many people will go their whole lives without encountering one in the wild, said Capt. Mike Jewell with the WDFW Police.

If you do come face to face with a cougar, it’s important to hold your ground, stand tall and make noise, he said.

“The key there is don’t run; sometimes that can trigger their pursuit instinct because they’re used to their prey running from them,” he said. “If they hear you coming, they’re going to clear out of there before you get there and the encounter will never happen. But certainly all those things about getting loud, getting big and getting aggressive are all things that are going to help you get out of that situation safely.”

Read more tips from the WDFW here.

Special care to watch children should also be taken when recreating outdoors, Jewell said.

“When you are outdoors, especially in good habitat where wildlife is likely to be encountered, keep your kids close,” he said. “Talk to your kids about what they’re supposed to do, so they know it’s not a good idea to run away. And be vigilant, exercise those common-sense habits to keep your kids safe in the outdoors just like you would anywhere else.”

Dogs can also be helpful for notification and protection from wildlife, Jewell said.

“Sometimes, like in this example in Leavenworth, it’s a good idea to have dogs with you because they can be a secondary deterrent as well,” he said.

More WDFW tips for cougar encounters:

Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.

Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.

Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it (e.g., step up onto a rock or stump). If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.

Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.

Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.

If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.

If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. 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. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake.

Pepper spray in the cougar’s face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.

Reilly Kneedler: 661-5213

@reillykneedler on Twitter

Reilly Kneedler: 661-5213 or

@reillykneedler on Twitter