Stevens County deputies had to put down a cougar south of Colville Wednesday night after a homeowner reported it was trying to get their dog.
The homeowner was able to get the dog inside the house, but rather than leave and move on to the next meal, the cougar planted himself to the porch and intently stared down the dog inside the house through a sliding glass door, according to Staci Lehman with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Due to safety concerns, deputies were left with no choice but to put the animal down.
I spoke with the Stevens County Sheriff's office Thursday morning and was told cougar sightings are calls they deal with fairly frequently, but mostly they involve livestock being killed and the "suspect" is long gone. What made Wednesday night's call so rare was that the cougar was still there when deputies arrived.
Most times, according Lehman, cougars are just passing through and don't want anything to do with humans. But sightings don't just happen in rural areas. Lehman noted anytime there's a water source there's the possibility of encountering wildlife, including cougars, in populated areas.
This map from the WDFW shows every reported cougar sighting in the state in the last year. If you click on it, you'll notice these sightings aren't just happening in the rural parts of the state.
In fact, there was a cougar sighting reported in the past month in downtown Spokane near Sprague and Browne.
There was another confirmed sighting on January 23 along High Drive Bluff when a homeowner reported seeing a cougar come right up to their front porch.
WDFW encourages citizens to report cougar sightings. It don't always mean that they'll be able to send an agent out to investigate, and it definitely doesn't mean that they'll send someone out to hunt it (again, most times they're just passing through), but reporting the sightings does help agents track specific patterns and areas that might need emphasis.
You might have noticed the cougar put down Wednesday night was wearing a collar. That collar is part of WDFW's "Predator-Prey" project. The agency traps and collars predators such as cougars and wolves, and prey animals, such as deer and elk, to gain a better understanding of their habits.
For predators, it allows them to monitor their movement. Currently there are about 50 cougars with collars in Washington's wilderness.
Should a prey animal end up dead, a signal is sent out and agents are able to track the animal and find out how it died. If you'd like to find out more information on the program, CLICK HERE.
The Stevens County Sheriff's Office said cougar/human/livestock/pet encounters have been on the rise in the area. It's unclear if that's a population increase or if as our area becomes more populated and spread out, sightings are just becoming more frequent.
Lehman did offer the following tips to reduce your chance of a cougar encounter:
- If hiking in nature, be loud. Let any wildlife know that you're in the area.
- Don't feed wildlife in your yard. Lehman said a lot of people enjoy having turkeys or deer in their yard, but bringing in animals like that will eventually bring in the predators that hunt them, too.
- If you do have domestic animals or livestock, if you can bring them in at night, or keep them in a barn or stable, that will help.
If you do encounter a cougar, here are some things to keep in mind (as hard as that might be when standing face-to-face with a cougar):
- Stop, stand still and stand tall. Do NOT run! A cougars instinct is to chase.
- Do not approach the animal
- Try to appear as large as possible. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Slowly back away.
- If the animal is aggressive toward you, shout, wave your arms, throw rocks, and if necessary, fight back.