SEASIDE - Drew Weil's comment to his father was succinct and sensational.
"I just got attacked by a mountain lion!" the nine-year-old told his father, Joe Weil.
Drew had been walking around the next-door neighbor's house at 1565 N. Wahanna Road when he came face to face with a mountain lion at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
The big cat leapt toward him, slobbering on his shorts and grazing his left leg with two teeth before it ran off.
Drew is sure it was a mountain lion. "I know what mountain lions look like; I saw them at the zoo," he said. The animal was bigger than the family's Australian shepherd, which stands at least two feet high, Drew said.
Mountain lions - also called cougars, panthers, pumas or catamounts - roam through much of Oregon, but are rarely seen on the North Coast, said Herman Biederbeck, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist for the North Coast.
At this point, animal control officials have no plans to do anything about the mountain lion on Wahanna.
"A cougar is a game mammal, and it's protected except during the authorized hunting season," Biederbeck said. Mountain lions can be killed when they threaten humans or damage crops or livestock, Biederbeck said. Otherwise, they can only be legally killed during hunting season, with a tag from the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Hunting season is not until Aug. 1.
If ODFW determined the encounter was definitely an attack and the mountain lion was not just running away, ODFW employees would probably bring in cougar hounds, Biederbeck said. "We need some reasonably solid evidence," he said. "Otherwise we'd be going out on a lot of these things."
But Joe and Lena Weil aren't happy. They have four children and they host barbecues and other events for other young people. They also do some daycare.
"I'm keeping the kids up on the deck now, because I'm scared," Lena Weil said. "They're only allowed out in the backyard if me and Joe are out there watching them like little babies."
The Weils, who do not believe in guns, are re-evaluating those beliefs.
Neighbor worriedNext-door neighbor Leonor Campos isn't letting Aaron Campos, her five-year-old, out either. "I don't feel comfortable if he goes outside," she said. Her family is keeping their doors shut and their eyes open.
Several children had been hearing growls in the days leading up to the incident, Lena Weil said. Drew, who heard the mountain lion growl as it ran away, said it was "sort
of like a puppy's voice, but really dark and louder."
Drew was walking around the back of the neighbor's house when he ran into the mountain lion. He was trying to sneak up on J.J. Syrons, 7, whom his parents baby-sit.
Rounding the corner of the house, Drew saw the mountain lion. It reared up on its hind legs and leapt at him.
"It was, like, running and it jumped at me," he said. "It was all the way in the air and it dive-bombed me." Two teeth grazed Drew's left leg just above the knee. He still had the marks four days later. His shorts were covered with animal saliva.
Drew spun around on one foot to escape, twisting his ankle as the cat ran away. "It just, like, jumped back over the fence and ran back in the forest," he said.
Drew limped into the house and told his story. "He was actually kind of calm and matter-of fact about it," Joe Weil said. Despite that, Drew is nervous about going outside again. And his parents aren't about to let him out, either. They are frightened that the incident happened mid-afternoon - when mountain lions are supposed to be nocturnal.
No mountain lion has attacked a human in Oregon, said Oregon State Police Sgt. Jeff Scroup, who is with the OSP Fish and Wildlife division. He said the mountain lion on Wahanna was more likely running away than attacking. He said he plans to get more details about the incident from the Weil family.
Scroup said a mountain lion sighted in Portland near a school in early June was hunted with hounds to protect the children. On May 28, a mountain lion struck by a car on U.S. Highway 26 was hunted with hounds after it slunk away, because an injured mountain lion might be more likely to attack.
Scroup said Clatsop County has about one report a month. "We have a lot of cats around here," he said.
He advises staying still, as running makes a human look like a deer, the mountain lion's natural prey. Instead, people should wave their arms and make noise, he said. "Something that clearly lets that cougar know, this is not a deer."
When his parents asked if he had yelled or put his hands up, Drew retorted, "I didn't have time!" Joe Weil said.
Hikers on forested trails should not travel alone, Scroup said. "These animals don't typically get down into populated areas." However, he said there have been sightings on Wahanna Road before.
What to do
According to information provided by Biederbeck, approaching a mountain lion is a bad idea, but fighting back if attacked is a good one. Making eye contact, trying to look bigger and picking up small children so they don't run away are all advised.
Landowners can keep mountain lions away from their property by refraining from feeding wildlife like deer or raccoons, clearing dense or low-lying vegetation or plants that attract deer, installing good lighting and keeping pets and livestock secure.
Biederbeck said a dog will sense a mountain lion before a human will, and can help with self-defense. Staying with a dog or staying indoors at night can keep children safer, he said. A mountain lion is also not likely to stick around unless there are many small pets or another food source. Neighborhoods with lots of cats are vulnerable.
Mountain lions are solitary and secretive, and their appearances are infrequent and unpredictable, Biederbeck said. This makes them hard to track down, and ODFW has few options after a sighting. "There's little we can do other than tell people about their rights," he said. "It may have scared the cougar enough that it'll not be back."
To obtain pamphlets on mountain lions or for more information, call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at (503) 338-0106 in Astoria or (503) 842-2741 in Tillamook.