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Cougar mauls 9-year-old at church camp in Washington state

May 31, 2022 GMT

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A cougar attacked a 9-year-old girl who was playing hide-and-seek at a church camp in Washington state, seriously wounding her and sending her friends running in fear.

Lily A. Kryzhanivskyy and two other children were playing in the woods Saturday at the camp near the small town of Fruitland, northwest of Spokane. Lily jumped out to surprise her friends when the cougar attacked, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

Adults rushed to help and found the girl covered in blood. She was airlifted to a hospital, where she had surgery for multiple wounds to her head and upper body.

Lily was released from the intensive care unit Monday and remains hospitalized in stable condition, the department said Tuesday.

Following the attack, adults staying at the church camp found the young male cougar and killed it.

“We are extremely thankful for this little girl’s resiliency, and we’re impressed with her spunk in the face of this unfortunate encounter,” Fish and Wildlife Police Capt. Mike Sprecher said. “It happened fast, and we are thankful that the adults at the camp responded so quickly.”

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Tests completed over the weekend showed the animal did not have rabies, the agency said.

Cougar attacks on humans are rare. There have been just two fatal attacks on humans in Washington state in the past 100 years, in 1924 and 2018, the agency said. State records show another 20 cougar attacks on humans resulting in injuries.

The cougar, also known as a mountain lion, is the second-largest cat in the Americas after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, cougars are rarely seen in daylight. The ambush predator eats deer and smaller animals. While cougars generally avoid people, attacks on humans have increased in North America as more people enter cougar habitat.

“In this instance, this little girl did nothing wrong,” said Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Staci Lehman. “It happened so quickly, and there’s nothing she could have done to prevent it.”

If attacked by a cougar, you should yell at the animal and try to make yourself look bigger, she said. If it attacks, stay on your feet and fight back.

“Do not turn around. Don’t take your eyes off the animal,” Lehman added. “Don’t run.”

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This story corrects that Fruitland, Washington, is in the northeastern part of the state, not the northwestern part of the state