A 9-year-old girl is recovering from severe injuries after she was attacked by a mountain lion while playing with friends at a bible camp in Stevens County, Washington.
According to a press release issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Lily A. Kryzhanivskyy was playing hide-and-seek in the woods on the morning of May 28, 2022 when the cougar suddenly attacked.
“She was attacked by the cougar so fast that there wasn’t much that she could do,” WDFW public affairs official Staci Lehman told MeatEater. “People on scene did respond and chase the cougar off, and somebody who was on site did dispatch the cougar.”
Lehman says that the cougar remained within a couple hundred feet of the camp for some time after the attack.
“I talked to one of my officers this morning, and he said that sometimes they tend to do that,” Lehmans said. “They will wait to see if prey is going to return or if they have another opportunity.”
The person who ultimately killed the cougar was not an employee of WDFW but a member of the public who was on site at the time of the attack.
“The investigation is still underway,” Lehman said. “But we do consider it self defense.”
She said that a responding officer arrived on the scene shortly after the attack and that the remains of the animal were collected and sent off for rabies testing. Those results came back negative.
“There was an officer who responded immediately with the Stevens County Sheriff's Department who has hounds, and he brought at least one of his dogs,” she said. “He would have run his hounds, and most likely they would have tracked down the cougar and dispatched it.”
That officer was Stevens County Conflict Wildlife Specialist Jeff Flood. He was recently featured on an episode of MeatEater’s “On the Hunt with Janis Putelis.”
“It was a bad deal,” Flood told a local media outlet shortly after the attack. “That cougar wasn’t playing around with her, he was trying to kill her.”
Flood’s position was created to address what locals said was WDFW’s lack of responsiveness to the rising number of cougar depredation events in the area.
In Episode 3, Season 1 of On The Hunt, Janis travels to northeastern Washington to document the uptick in human-cougar conflict causing strife between the locals and the lions and innovative new efforts that are underway to address the problem.
“In the last 10 years there’s been an alarming increase in the number of lion depredations in northeast Washington,” Janis said. “Whatever the reason, when these conflicts happen, mountain lions are the losers.”
Between Washington’s human population boom, an increase in the number of small hobby farms in rural parts of the state, and a 1996 ban on hunting cougars with the aid of hounds, a number of factors have converged to facilitate the area’s rise in human-cougar conflict.
“I don’t know if I could put a number on it,” WDFW game warden Dave Spurbeck told Janis when asked about the frequency of human-cougar conflict in his northeast Washington territory. “There’s definitely an increase of people. There’s definitely an increase of little hobby farms. Since we got rid of hounds, there’s less effective ways to control the numbers. I think all of those things cannot be disputed.”
In the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington, an already at-risk elk herd sustained heavy population declines this past winter, mostly from cougar predation on elk calves.
According to an article by Andy Wolgamott published on Northwest Sportsman, WDFW biologists used GPS monitoring to show that only nine of the herd’s 125 calves made it through the winter of 2021 to 2022. Seventy-seven of the dead calves located by WDFW had succumbed to some form of predation, with 54 deaths being attributed to cougars specifically.
That news prompted the WDFW Fish and Game Commission to take public comment on a proposal that would allow hunters to harvest a second mountain lion “in areas where monitoring has shown a high level of cougar predation.” That proposal could be adopted as soon as July 15, 2022.
In the aftermath of Saturday morning’s mauling, Lily Kryzhanivskyy was airlifted to a nearby hospital where she underwent emergency surgery. After surgery, she was intubated and transferred to the ICU. According to WDFW, she was released from the ICU on Monday, May 31 and is now in stable condition.
“Her mom wanted everybody to know that she is making an amazing recovery,” Lehman said. “I even got a chance to talk to the little girl herself, and she wants people to know how brave and tough she was during the attack.”
Captain Mike Sprecher of the WDFW police said that Kryzhanivskyy’s demeanor has been impressive throughout the ordeal.
“We are extremely thankful for this little girl’s resiliency, and we're impressed with her spunk in the face of this unfortunate encounter,” he said, in a WDFW press release. “It happened fast, and we are thankful that the adults at the camp responded so quickly.”
Feature image via Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.