PORT ANGELES — Trails in the Heart O’ the Hills area south of Port Angeles remain closed to hikers as trackers continue to search for a cougar that attacked an 8-year-old boy on July 29, according to Olympic National Park.
The trails will remain closed until further notice, said Amos Almy, park spokesperson, in an email on Sunday.
A hound dog team was used only on the day after the attack, on July 30, but the dogs did not find the cougar and can’t be used again until there is a more recent sighting, Almy said.
The cougar attacked the child in the Lake Angeles area and was frightened off by the boy’s mother, who screamed at the big cat until it let her son loose.
Her son was left with minor injuries and was able to hike back to the trailhead on his own, authorities said.
The mother and her son have not been identified and the family has “informed us they are not interested in speaking with the media,” Almy said.
All campers in the area were evacuated after the attack.
Park personnel were notified of the attack at 6:30 p.m. July 29. They arrived quickly to assess and stabilize the child’s medical condition before escorting the family back to the trailhead, Almy said.
The search began at 5 a.m. the following day.
If the cougar is located, it will be euthanized and removed from the park for a necropsy, Almy has said.
“This may provide clues as to why the animal attacked since cougars are rarely seen and attacks on humans are extraordinarily rare,” Almy said.
Olympic National Park, which covers nearly 1 million acres, is considered cougar territory.
Park officials recommend that visitors not hike or jog alone, and keep children within sight and close to adults.
Those who meet a cougar are urged to refrain from running because that could trigger the cougar’s attack instinct. Instead, people should group together, appear as large as possible, keep their eyes on the animal, make lots of noise and shout loudly. Throwing rocks or objects at the cougar also is recommended.
For more information on how to respond to a cougar encounter, see https://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/nature/upload/cougars.pdf.