Group of heroic women beat up cougar to save friend trapped in its jaws

Click to play video: 'Woman who survived cougar attack credits friends for saving her life'
Woman who survived cougar attack credits friends for saving her life
A Washington State woman who survived a cougar attack shared her story for the first time. She said thanks to her friends, she made it out alive. – Mar 18, 2024

A woman from the Seattle area is crediting a group of friends for saving her life after she was attacked by a cougar while on a bike ride.

Keri Bergere recounted the story of the attack that left her with serious neck and face injuries in a TV interview with KING 5 News, accompanied by two of the friends who were with her that day.

Bergere, Annie Bilotta and Tisch Williams are all competitive cyclists. On Feb. 17, the three of them were joined by two other women for a long-distance bike ride on the trails outside Fall City, Wash.

Five women were enjoying a bike ride on the trails outside Seattle when a cougar attacked. KING 5 News

The five women had cycled about 30 kilometres and had reached the Tokul Creek trail near Snoqualmie, Wash. when they spotted two mountain lions. Without warning, one of the animals attacked and dragged Bergere off her bike.

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“From the time we saw the cougars to the time it took Keri off her bike was about three seconds,” Bilotta recounted. “We didn’t have a chance to face off with them, to scare them away or anything.”

“I just remember getting tackled from this side and ending up at the other side of the road pinned to the ground and hearing all the ladies rallying and fighting for my life,” Bergere said.

The cougar clocked in at 75 pounds and was about one year old, according to a statement issued by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Immediately, the other women leaped into action and engaged in “hand-to-hand combat, battling this thing,” as Bilotta put it.

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The women grabbed sticks and a large rock and beat the mountain lion, while Bilotta said she tried to choke the animal, “which was like trying to choke a rock.”

Meanwhile, Bergere, whose face was locked in the jaws of the cougar, was also trying to beat back the beast.

“I knew every second what was going on. And I was doing my own, poking at it and trying to poke his eyeballs out and get up his nose,” Bergere recounted.

After about 15 minutes, the women estimate, there was a moment when the cougar released its grip on Bergere and she was able to slip out of its jaws. The four others managed to get a bike on top of the cougar and held it down until help arrived.

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Three women stand on top of a bicycle as they pin down a cougar that just attacked their friend. KING 5 News

At that point, Bergere was laying there by herself while the four women wrestled to keep the cougar down.

“We kept saying, ‘Are you doing OK?’ and she would just give us a bloody thumbs up that she was doing OK,” Williams said.

An officer with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife arrived shortly after and shot and killed the mountain lion.

Lt. Erik Olson of the agency praised the women’s quick actions that saved their friend’s life, saying, “We may have had a very different outcome without their heroic efforts.”

“That cougar had me,” Bergere stated. “I know for a fact I would be dead if they didn’t come back in, I would just be gone.”

Bergere spent five days in the hospital but her road to recovery is far from over. The attack caused permanent nerve damage and doctors will continue to monitor how Bergere’s jaw heals over the next few weeks, KING 5 News reports.

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Photo still of a broadcast interview with (L-R) Keri Bergere, Annie Bilotta, and Tisch Williams as they recounted a cougar attack that left Bergere with permanent nerve damage. KING 5 News

The women have no plans to stop cycling, though they’ll be going out with cougar protection next time.

“I’m so grateful, and I know how much I owe these ladies and they’re always going to be my family moving forward,” Bergere said.

Officials at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory examined the cougar after it was shot. The animal tested negative for rabies and appeared to be in good health. No evidence of diseases that might affect its behaviour were found.


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