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Out & about: Cougar tails hikers on Antoine Peak

Mountain lion. (File)
Mountain lion. (File)

OUTSTALKED – “Of course it happened to me,” Cherylina Moore said. “I’ve been hiking only since June and one of my biggest fears is running into a cougar or a bear.”

The Spokane Valley woman and her hiking companion were on Antoine Peak just a half-mile up from the Robbins Road trailhead around 8:15 a.m. last Sunday when they locked eyes with the predator.

“It was tracking us,” she said. “It would have been a magnificent thing to see if it hadn’t been so close, and I hadn’t been so scared.”

Antoine Peak is a Spokane County Conservation Futures area the rises like backdrop behind East Valley High School.

“We had seen some deer off to the left as we started our hike. We were watching them and talking. As we went around a bend, we both looked up the hillside on our right at the same time and locked eyes with it.”

The mountain lion was just two bounds above them and following them with its head down, she said.

“It was just huge, with a huge long tail,” she said. “I understand why people run in that situation. That’s the first instinct. I was so scared. I wanted to run, but I knew better.

“I bowed out as gracefully as I could, trying not to fall, and looking down to see that both of my shoelaces were untied. Great timing.”

Moore flipped the safety tab off her bear spray and released a short burst between her and where she’d last seen the cougar, which had moved out of sight.

“I wanted to test the spray, since I’d never used it, and at the same time create a barrier that might have made the cougar leave,” she said.

“I had a whistle on my pack strap and I’ve heard that making yourself look big and throwing rocks are good things to do in that situation. The cougar was definitely within rock-throwing range.

“Now I wish I’d have tried those things to see how they work.”

Mountain lions are common enough in the region around Spokane to offer her reasonably fair odds of a second chance.

“What lurks in my mind is that all of the leaves and foliage are off the brush at this time of year,” she said. “In any other season, we probably wouldn’t have seen the cat.

“Makes you wonder how often we’re stalked without knowing it.”