WDFW Iisues Safety Reminders Following Cougar Sightings in Olympia
OLYMPIA—Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officers are issuing safety advice while they continue to look for a cougar reported in several west Olympia locations over the past few weeks.
Previous attempts to track the animal with hounds have been unsuccessful and have been discontinued because of the dogs’ inability to pick up a scent in recent dry weather. Officers are not able to set live traps for the animal or use unleashed tracking dogs in the area populated with homes, businesses and arterial streets.
“Setting a trap in an area like this would more likely draw pet dogs and cats than a cougar,” said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of WDFW’s enforcement program. “We’ll keep looking for the animal, but in the meantime, there are safety precautions area residents can take as well.”
Citizens have reported sighting a cougar in a grocery store parking lot, a park and near residences. Most recently, two college students reported a cougar following them Saturday evening in Grass Lake Park.
As a precaution, area residents are advised to closely supervise children and outdoor pets, particularly at dusk. Residents also are advised to feed pets indoors and secure or remove other outside food sources such as garbage cans or compost piles to avoid attracting small wildlife that in turn may draw cougars.
Although actual encounters with cougars are rare, the following steps will minimize the risk of a conflict:
- Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running or rapid movements may trigger an attack. At close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
- Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back.
- Do not crouch down or try to hide.
- Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Never approach the cougar. Always leave the animal an escape route.
- Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it by stepping up onto a rock or stump. If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.
- If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouching with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife responds to cougar sightings when there is a threat to public safety or property. To report a dangerous wildlife incident, call 1-877-933-9847. If it is an emergency, dial 911.
More information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/cougars.htm