Washington Fish and Wildlife officers plan to euthanize a cougar if it returns to Kelso’s Butler Acres neighborhood after several residents reported seeing it over the past two weeks.
Jeff Wickersham, Fish and Wildlife Region Five captain, said the department made the decision because the cougar has been seen multiple times close to residences and the low chance that it could successfully relocate the animal. The cougar appears to be an adult or “subadult.”
“Public safety is our number one concern at this point,” Wickersham said, though there have been no reports of attacks to people or pets.
The department can immobilize an animal that wanders into a neighborhood and relocate it, but it is hard to find an area unoccupied by another animal.
Wickersham said the department has received reports of the cougar over the last couple months. The cougar was first seen in the Butler Acres neighborhood in August, he said. The cougar left the area for awhile but has returned.
A caller reported a cougar in her front yard five feet from her front door on Prairie Lane Sunday morning. Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputies responded and passed the information to Fish and Wildlife agents. A Butler Acres resident also reported seeing the cougar in her yard Monday morning.
Several officers and a dog tracked the cougar into the nearby woods Monday but were unable to find it, Wickersham said.
If the cougar doesn’t return, the department won’t look for it, Wickersham said. Officers will also re-evaluate how to respond if a cougar returns after a long absence.
Fish and Wildlife is working with the Kelso Police Department and sheriff’s office to respond to the sightings as soon as possible, Wickersham said.
“In order for us to maximize our ability to successfully find the cougar, we need to make sure people are sure of what they are seeing and call it in in a timely fashion,” he said.
Along with making sure residents report any cougar sightings, residents should make sure small children are never left unattended. Homeowners can also modify the habitat around their homes by lighting walkways after dark, closing off open spaces under structures and pruning shrubs and trees to prevent cougars from hiding behind them.
Residents can also help prevent cougars from coming into their properties by not feeding wildlife, feeding pets indoors and keeping pets inside from dusk to dawn.