Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are investigating several unconfirmed cougar sightings reported last month by residents of southwestern Washington.
WDFW police communications specialist Becky Elder said the recent sightings have not yet caused any public safety concerns and are unusual for this time of year.
“Sometimes people say they saw a cougar, and sometimes it’s a tabby they saw,” Elder said. “I’ve seen reports of a golden retriever being mistaken for a bobcat.”
On June 11, a citizen reported seeing a cougar on the Lewis and Cowlitz county border near Vader, although the department has not confirmed this, according to WDFW’s Public Incident Report Map.
The map also shows that on June 13, a cougar was confirmed to have killed a Lewis County resident’s goats off US Highway 12 near Riffe Lake.
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A series of animal sightings were reported between Toledo and Onalaska in June, with two incidents reported on the same day.
One report included a citizen who on June 19 reported seeing a cougar just outside Onalaska, which WDFW later confirmed was a bobcat.
Kalama resident Amber Johncox has about 25 chickens in her home. Last week she noticed that several of them had been killed.
Johncox said she will likely buy a game camera to put around her chicken coop and hopes to identify the animal that kills the chickens.
Sportsman’s Warehouse in Kelso sells trail cameras for $39.99 to $149.99. Game cameras cost around $100 at online stores from Bass Pro Shops, Scheels, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Johncox plans to report his sighting to WDFW.
“There’s something there, I just can’t confirm if it’s a cougar or a bobcat,” Johncox said.
Once an incident is reported to WDFW, Elder said the response varies depending on the animal’s location and behavior. If someone is out hiking and sees a cougar passing by, Elder said WDFW will follow up by phone or email with the person and provide educational resources.
If an animal escalates from digging up trash or, as in Johncox’s case, killing livestock, the next step is for WDFW to set up game cameras and traps for the animal, Elder said. They also give advice to the owner on how to protect his animals while waiting.
WDFW says “relatively few” people will see a cougar face-to-face. Since the first fatal cougar attack in Washington State in 1924, 19 other cougar-human encounters resulting in injury have been reported. The second and most recent fatal attack occurred in 2018.
If you encounter a cougar, WDFW advises not to run or look away, but to face the animal, speak firmly and back away slowly.