The Lummi Nation Police Department reported yesterday they have recently received reports of cougar sightings, including one yesterday morning, “down in the Gooseberry Point area.”
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) Game Warden Dave Jones said he received a unverified report of a cougar in the area about 10 days ago.
It was during May of last year when a bear was spotted on the Lummi Peninsula before swimming to Lummi Island and then to Orcas Island where it was eventually trapped and relocated to the North Cascades National Park near Marblemount.
The WDFW website says cougars can be found throughout Washington where suitable cover and prey are found. WDFW offices around Washington state report receiving hundreds of calls each year regarding cougar sightings, including attacks on livestock and pets and confrontations with humans.
Lummi Police recommend following the advice contained in a video provided by Western Wildlife Outreach.
Advice provided by WDFW to minimize the potential for a cougar encounter includes:
- Don’t leave small children unattended. When children are playing outdoors, closely supervise them and be sure they are indoors by dusk.
- Don’t feed wildlife and feral cats (domestic cats gone wild). This includes deer, raccoons, and other small mammals. Remember predators follow prey.
- Feed dogs and cats indoors. If you must feed outside, do so in the morning or midday, and pick up food and water bowls, as well as leftovers and spilled food, well before dark. Pet food and water attract small mammals that, in turn, attract cougars.
- Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn. Left outside at night, small dogs and cats may become prey for cougars.
- Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids. Garbage attracts small mammals that, in turn, attract cougars.
WDFW issued this advice in the event you do come face-to-face with a cougar.
- If you come face to face with a cougar, realize your actions can either help or hinder a quick retreat by the animal.
- Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
- Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.
- Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it (e.g., step 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.
- Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
- Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.
- If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches 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.
- If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing—even bare hands. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake.
- Pepper spray in the cougar’s face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.