Women pinned cougar during ‘hand-to-hand combat’ to save friend trapped in its jaws

A group of Seattle-area cyclists who helped one of their own escape the jaws of a cougar recounted their story this weekend, saying they fought the cat and pinned it down.

The woman who was attacked, Keri Bergere, sustained neck and face injuries and was treated at a hospital and released following the Feb. 17 incident on a trail northeast of Fall City, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement.

Bergere said she spent five days at an area hospital and was still recovering.

Fish and Wildlife Lt. Erik Olson called the actions of her fellow cyclists “heroic” in the statement. But the extent of the cyclists’ battle with the 75-pound cat wasn’t immediately clear then.

Three of the riders — Bergere, Annie Bilotta and Tisch Williams — spoke to NBC affiliate KING of Seattle for a story Friday.

The trio, who have bicycled together for five years and ride competitively, said they were about 19 miles into a trek, near the Tokul Creek biking trails, when a pair of cougars suddenly ran up and one of them grabbed Bergere and dragged her off her bicycle.

“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 told KING.

The other cat ran into the hills, the cyclists said, while the four riders with Bergere mounted a counterattack to save her from the grips of the attacker’s jaws, at that point around her face and exerting pressure.

“Erica and Tisch come over with sticks and a rock and we’re hand-to-hand combat-battling this thing,” Bilotta told the station.

Cougars use the extraordinary force of their jaws, said to exert about 400 pounds per square inch of pressure, to crush the skulls, neck bones and windpipes of prey, experts say.

For a time it seemed that the cat wouldn’t relent as Bergere pitched in by doing anything she could, including poking at its eyes and nose, she told the Seattle station.

But about 15 minutes into the saga, the cyclists said, the cat weakened pressure on Bergere, and she was able to slip her face out of its jaws.

At that point, the women used a bicycle to pin the mountain lion down while help was en route, they said. Bergere was nearby, injured but alive.

“She would just give us a bloody thumbs up,” Williams recalled.

Fish and Wildlife officers fatally shot the cougar and removed it for examination, later concluding that it had no diseases or abnormalities that might contribute to such a provocation, according to the agency’s statement.

The second cat wasn’t found.

Bergere expressed gratitude to her fellow riders.

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

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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