“They did everything they were supposed to do,” Abbott said on Sunday. “But something was wrong with this cougar.”
The survivor was still in hospital on Sunday. Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said the 31-year-old man was in satisfactory condition.
Authorities would not confirm the names of the cyclists until the man who died, a 32-year-old Seattle resident, was formally identified. That was expected this week.
Officials said the cougar was emaciated which might be a reason why the attack was so unusual.
The attack near North Bend, 30 miles east of Seattle, was the first fatal cougar attack in Washington state in 94 years. The first man managed to get on his bike and ride off, looking back to see his friend being dragged into the trees, Abbott said. The cyclist rode for two miles before he could get a cellphone signal to call 911.
When rescuers arrived, it took about half an hour to find the second victim, who was dead with the cougar on top of him in what appeared to be a den-like area. An officer shot at the animal, which ran off. Several hours later, state fish and wildlife agents used dogs to track the cougar to a nearby tree. They shot and killed it.
Authorities planned to match DNA taken from the animal with DNA from the victims to be certain they killed the right cougar. They also plan to examine the cougar to see what might have been wrong with it.
There are an estimated 2,000 cougars in Washington. Until the 1960s, the state paid hunters a bounty for killing them. Now it allows 250 to be hunted in 50 designated zones. While they are sometimes known to kill livestock or pets, and though one even found its way into a park in Seattle in 2009, encounters with people are rare.