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Woman attacked by cougar near Snoqualmie shares story

The group of cyclists, who were attacked on Feb. 17 near Snoqualmie, are sharing details of the incident that had them fighting for their lives.

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — A Kenmore woman who survived a recent cougar attack is sharing her story for the first time. 

Keri Bergere, Annie Bilotta, and Tisch WIlliams are competitive cyclists and have been riding together for at least five years. 

But on Feb. 17, a routine ride would turn into a fight for Keri’s life.

“We remember it all, and we all remember it a little differently. That’s good because it helps us put our puzzle pieces together,” Bergere said.

That Saturday afternoon, a group of five women started riding from Tisch’s home in North Bend and made it to Tokul Creek trail near Snoqualmie and it was 19 miles into the ride when the attacked occurred. 

“The cougars ran out from the brush on the right side of the road and they kind of ran between the two groups of us and one went up into the woods and the other one changed his mind and decided to tackle Keri,” said Bilotta.

The women said it happened in the blink of an eye and the young cougar dragged Keri off her bike.

“From the time we saw the cougars to the time it took Keri off her bike was about three seconds,” Bilotta said. “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 women jumped into action to save their friend.

“I immediately tried to choke the cougar, which was like trying to choke a rock. Then, Erica and Tisch come over with sticks and a rock and we’re hand-to-hand combat battling this thing,” recalled Bilotta.

The cougar had Bergere’s face in its jaw and she feared she wouldn’t make it.

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

Fifteen minutes into the battle and there was a small moment of release and Keri was able to get away. The group then managed to get a bike on top of the cougar and hold it down until help arrived.

“Keri’s just laying there by herself and we kept saying, ‘Are you doing OK?’ and she would just give us a bloody thumbs up that she was doing OK,” Williams said.

The whole ordeal lasted 45 minutes. A Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officer shot and killed the young cougar. The agency used hounds to search for the second cougar that ran off, but it was never found.

Bergere suffered severe trauma to her face and permanent nerve damage, but said if it wasn’t for her friends, she wouldn’t be alive.

“I know for a fact I would be dead if they didn’t come back in, I would just be gone. That cougar had me and there’s no doubt in my mind,” Bergere said.

“I think it’s the epitome of true friendship and love is action,” Williams said. Bilotta added that she couldn’t just standby and watch the cougar attack her friend. 

“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.

Bergere spent five days at Harborview Medical Center following the attack. Her doctors are now waiting to see how her jaw heals over the next few weeks, but her road to recovery isn’t over.

The women do plan to continue cycling, and said they will be prepared with more protection next time.

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