Cougar stalks students in Olympia park



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 28 at 1:02 PM

Video: Cougar stalks students in Olympia park

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Two Olympia college students' brush with nature was no ordinary walk in the park. They say a cougar stalked them in a city park Saturday night, which forced them to climb a tree to safety.

Paul Campiche and Bar Ryan entered Grass Lake Park Saturday night despite the cougar warning, never thinking they'd encounter one.

"I thought it was a deer, but it was a cougar," said Campiche, "definitely a feline, a very large cat."

"I saw the cougar and I thought, 'Oh my God. He might jump on him.' That's how close he was," said Ryan.

Scared to death, they climbed a tree.

"I never got up a tree faster in my life," said Campiche.

But the cat circled beneath them.

"It followed us," said Campiche. "It surrounded the tree and paced around."

"I was scared for both of us. Really scared," said Ryan.

After 20 minutes in the tree with the cat lingering below, Campiche called 9-1-1. Olympia police arrived in minutes, armed for a cat fight.

"We had a rifle, shot gun and two hand guns," said Lt. Bill Wilson, Olympia Police Department. "It scared me and the officers, even though they didn't say they were scared. I told them I was scared."

Experts say if you encounter a cougar, make yourself as big as possible, look the cat in the eyes and slowly walk away.

"But everybody asks me can cougars climb a tree. Of course they do," said Wilson. "But these kids thought it was safer up there. If it was me, I would have done the same thing."

By 10:30 p.m., police had rescued the college kids and contained the area, but the cougar slipped away.

"That's what I was saying about being nervous going in the woods. There's a cougar in there and it's hungry," said Campiche.

State wildlife agents may make another effort to capture the cougar and relocate it.