LEAVENWORTH — It’s unclear why a young male cougar attacked a small child in Leavenworth on Saturday, but the incident was rare — only the 20t…
LEAVENWORTH — A young boy was attacked by a cougar Saturday night in Leavenworth, but family dogs chased the big cat away before it could inflict serious injuries.
The boy was in Enchantment Park with family members when the cougar attacked around 9:15 p.m., said Capt. Mike Jewell with state Department of Fish and Wildlife Police.
Family members released the dogs and the dogs stopped the attack.
The boy sustained minor injuries, Jewell said. He did not disclose the boy’s age or name.
Fish and Wildlife officers and Chelan County Sheriff’s Office deputies tracked the cougar with their own dogs and then killed it in the park around 1 a.m. Sunday.
The cougar, a young adult male, was first reported in the area Saturday afternoon, where it was seen moving toward a group of people.
“But then when people started making noise and standing up, making themselves large, they were able to scare it off,” Jewell said. “So you’ve got a little bit of unusual behavior, but then also normal behavior, as well.”
Officers unsuccessfully searched the area. Jewell said the park was still closed when the cougar attacked the boy and there were signs posted advising of a cougar sighting.
“Nobody could’ve predicted this was going to happen,” Jewell said. “I’m sure it was a very frightening experience for the people that were involved. And, again, we’re just really relieved that they’re OK.”
He later added, “But I will say in this particular circumstance, the adult family members took really quick action and undoubtedly prevented anything more serious from occurring. They were with the child, they stayed with the child and when they saw what was happening they immediately took steps to intervene.”
Officials don’t know why the cougar attacked. Biologists examined the cougar Sunday morning and didn’t find obvious signs of illness or injury, Jewell said.
“It’s hard to say,” Jewell said. “We may never know why this occurred.”
The cougar remains will be sent to a lab for more testing.
Jewell said there have been two or three fatal attacks on humans since the state began recording cougar attacks in the 1920s. The most recent took place near North Bend in May 2018 when a cougar attacked a pair of bicyclists, killing one.
“But anytime we get a report like this, our No. 1 goal is ensuring the safety of the community,” Jewell said. He added, “But we’re confident that in removing this cougar that there’s really not much for people to be concerned with anymore.”
He reminded residents that it’s not uncommon for cougars to come into urban areas.
“Anytime that you’re in an area where any wildlife can live ... it’s always important to be vigilant,” Jewell said.