5-year-old hurt in cougar attack in NE Washington

THURSDAY, SEPT. 3, 2009, 5:16 P.M.

A 5-year-old boy from Rossland, British Columbia, was attacked by a cougar Wednesday while his family was hiking a trail in Stevens County.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers said the attack occurred while the boy and his family were hiking on the Abercrombie Mountain trail along Silver Creek in the Colville National Forest.

The boy’s parents told wildlife officers that the boy was treated for head wounds at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, British Columbia. He should recover completely, they said.

Wildlife officers began searching for the cougar on Thursday, said Capt. Mike Whorton, regional enforcement supervisor in Spokane.

The mother was near the boy when the cougar suddenly attached from out of a brushy area, Whorton said in a press release. The mother reportedly fought off the cougar and the parents took the child about 25 miles to the hospital in Canada.

The boy’s parents asked that their names not be made public, Whorton said.

Department officers have contacted local hunters with hounds trained to tree cougars to assist in searching for the cougar, he said, noting that if the animal is found, it will be killed.

“When human life is threatened in this way, we take no chances,” Whorton said.

Colville Forest officials said they would be posting warning signs at the trailhead.

The last reported cougar attack in Washington occurred last year in Douglas County, Fish and Wildlife officials said.

Since records have been kept, 18 cougar attacks have been confirmed in the state, including one fatality in 1924 in Okanogan County.

Whorton said small children are particularly vulnerable to cougar attacks and should be closely supervised in cougar country.

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