A Longview resident’s camera on Sunday appears to have caught a cougar in the early morning hours sauntering across her driveway south of Columbia Heights. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has not confirmed the sighting.
Emily Robbins’ front-yard security camera was set off at 2:05 a.m., capturing the animal as it walked across her driveway on Cascade Way and Cedar Place, then stopped to look through their gate into the backyard.
“I lost a little bit of sleep that night ... I know they’re around here but it’s very rare that you actually come across or see one,” Robbins said.
Robbins does not have any livestock, and her two dogs never sleep outside, making her think “he might have just been passing through” her residential neighborhood.
Robbins sent the video to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, who asked her about how the animal acted and gave her tips to keep her pets safe.
Robbins, a lifelong Cowlitz County resident, said she has never seen a cougar in-person but has encountered the occasional bobcat or coyote.
This sighting comes after a standard seasonal uptick in cougar and bobcat reports in Cowlitz County, though cougars usually are not spotted in residential neighborhoods.
Every late spring, animals like bears, bobcats and cougars come out of winter looking for food sources, said Becky Elder, WDFW police communications specialist, in an interview Friday.
Bobcats, for instance, will often target chicken coops. Cougars usually prey on deer, animals known to frequent neighborhoods.
That’s why WDFW asks people not to feed deer, keep their livestock safely confined and make sure their trash cans are completely shut.
The string of recent unconfirmed cougar sightings this time of year in Cowlitz County is not unusual, Elder said.
Robbins said she posted the video on social media as a public service announcement for people to be aware a cougar was in the area.
WDFW took down Robbins’ address and got the security camera footage, reminding them to keep a close eye on pets especially at night.
WDFW responds in a variety of ways to confirmed animal sightings.
Most times people report seeing a cougar out in the wild, usually acting noncombatively and simply passing through the area, Elder said.
In those cases, WDFW tells people to keep a safe distance and marvel in the fact they have spotted a rarely seen animal in its natural state.
“That’s pretty special and unique,” Elder said.
But when an animal shows up in neighborhoods or kills livestock, WDFW works closely with affected homeowners on how to keep pets safe.
If a cougar causes public safety concerns, that’s when WDFW considers other options such as putting up trail cameras or trapping the animal.
So far, Elder said no cougar has caused any serious public safety concerns. Since 1924, Washington state has had two fatal cougar-human attacks. The last happened in 2018, according to WDFW.
“If somebody saw something either visually or caught something on camera in the middle of the night, oftentimes with those incidents those animals are just moving through,” Elder said. “There’s no immediate concern or threat.”