There have been several cougar sightings in the Yelm and Roy areas this August and September, prompting warnings from concerned citizens on social media. Livestock and pets have been lost, and the big cats have even been seen during daylight hours.
Roy resident Elizabeth Murdock was shocked one morning to find her Nigerian dwarf goat had been taken from her back yard enclosure, just 10 feet from her house. The doe weighed approximately 70 pounds.
“It’s scary, not only that an animal was strong enough to take our goat and jump over the fence, but that it happened so close to our house and our kids,” she said. “My fiancé, Adam Kuhns, built a new enclosed goat structure the next day. At least now I know they’re safe.”
Facebook posts on “Reaching Out – Yelm and Surrounding Areas” confirmed that cougars have been recently sighted.
On Aug. 14, Tammie Dunthorn-Leigh posted, “Today we had a cougar pretty close to my house on our 40 acres. I was walking in my backyard and I heard him growl. He was close. I scared him off. My husband went looking for him and saw him on our upper property which is backed by the McKenna Reserve, and chased him off. He said he was BIG. We live at the end of Kinsman off 702. Be cautious and lock your fur babies up.”
This sighting was within 5 miles of the Murdock home. Other residents have reported sighting the big cats in Nisqually Pines in Yelm and in Tenino and Rainier.
According to the Washington State Fish and Wildlife department, cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, are indigenous to Washington state. Adult cats are 25 inches to 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh an average of 150 pounds, but large males can reach 220 pounds. Cougars have no natural predators besides humans. A male cougar can measure 7-foot-9 from nose to tail.
Males are territorial and will not allow other males into their domain. If a male is killed, he is quickly replaced. Cougars breed in the spring and summer and females care for the young. Most active at dawn and dusk, daytime sightings are not uncommon. Cougars live on the periphery of civilization and occasionally come closer to towns where food or water is more readily available.
Cougars naturally prey on deer, elk and other hoofed animals, but also consume raccoons, coyotes, rabbits and small rodents. Most domestic pets are much easier to catch than wild animals, which makes them enticing prey.
If you see a cougar, Washington State Fish and Wildlife offers the following suggestions:
Make yourself big, extending your arms in the air. Unzip a jacket and spread it out to make yourself appear larger.
Get loud, but don’t scream. Use a deep voice.
Don’t run. Back away slowly.
If you have small children or pets with you, do not bend over to pick them up, just reach down.
Let neighbors know so they can protect their property.
Report interactions immediately to Fish and Wildlife.
To keep your pets and livestock safe, these procedures are recommended:
Don’t feed wild animals. Luring small animals to your property will draw in predators.
Keep livestock securely locked up from before dusk until after full sunrise.
Use hot wire on top of fencing.
Keep a radio in your barn on a talk station, but turn it off during the day. Cougars are smart. If they hear constant noise they will come to realize it isn’t live humans.
Keep a whistle or air horn handy and sound it if you hear or see a cougar.
Install spotlights or motion sensor lights near livestock or your home.
If your life or property is at stake and you catch a cougar attacking your livestock or pets, you are allowed to shoot the animal. However, proof of predation is required and you must call Fish and Wildlife immediately. They will send an officer right away.
Call Fish and Wildlife at 360-902-2936, ext. 1, for any sightings and visit http://www.fdfw.wa.gov for more information.