Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are investigating multiple unconfirmed cougar sightings reported in the last month by Southwest Washington residents.
Becky Elder, WDFW police communications specialist, said the recent sightings have not yet caused any public safety concerns and are not unusual for this time of year.
“Sometimes people state they saw a cougar, and sometimes it ends up that it was a tabby cat they saw,” Elder said. “I’ve seen reports of a golden retriever being mistaken as a bobcat.”
A citizen on June 11 reported seeing a cougar on the border of Lewis and Cowlitz counties near Vader, though the department has not confirmed this, according to WDFW’s public incident report map.
The map also shows on June 13 a confirmed cougar killed a Lewis County resident’s goats off U.S. Highway 12 near Riffe Lake.
A string of animal sightings were reported between Toledo and Onalaska in June, with two reported incidents from the same day.
One report included a citizen who on June 19 said they saw a cougar just outside of Onalaska that WDFW later confirmed was a bobcat.
Kalama resident Amber Johncox owns about 25 chickens at her home. In the last week, she’s noticed several of them have been killed.
Johncox said she will probably buy a game camera to set up around her coop and hopes to identify the animal killing the chickens.
Sportsman’s Warehouse in Kelso sells trail cameras priced from $39.99 to $149.99. Game cameras go for about $100 in the online stores for Bass Pro Shops, Scheels and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Johncox plans to report her sighting to WDFW.
“There’s something back there, I just cannot 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 location and the animal’s behavior. If someone is out on a hike and sees a cougar passing by, Elder said WDFW will follow up via phone or email with the person and provide education resources.
If an animal escalates to digging through trash or — like 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 tips to the owner on how to protect their animals in the meantime.
WDFW says “relatively few” people will ever see a cougar face-to-face. Since Washington state’s first fatal cougar attack in 1924, 19 other cougar-human confrontations that caused injuries have been reported. The second, and most recent, fatal attack happened in 2018.
If one does encounter a cougar, WDFW advises not to run or look away from it, but face the animal, speak firmly and slowly back away.