"We don't want to have to do this. It's necessary," said Sgt. Mike Jewell of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department, who put a shotgun slug into the big cat. "We're always going to put the safety of the public first."
The cat weighed 110 pounds and appeared to be a young male. There were several sightings in the city before a neighbor saw it in the tree surrounded by houses and an apartment complex. Young children were in the area, officials said
"There was no escape route if it were to come down out of the tree," Jewell said. "It would have become a much more serious threat."
A tranquilizer could have taken too much time to take effect, he said, adding it was unusual for a cougar to travel through a city and stop in a neighborhood.
The young cougar probably was driven away by its mother and was looking for its own territory, said Madonna Luers, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman in Spokane.
"In the dark of night it wandered in -- who knows how -- trying to find a place to make a living, and it ended up close to people in an urban setting," Luers said.
Washington has a healthy population of a couple of thousand cougars that live wherever they can kill deer, their main prey, she said.
The decision to shoot the cougar was debated in Facebook postings, said Mandy Valdez, who works at Kennewick Christian Daycare in the neighborhood.
"Everybody that posted on Facebook was so mad about it," she said.
However, she agreed with the decision, even though there was no specific threat to the daycare center.
"Oh my gosh! Did you hear about the cougar? It's right up the street," she recalled telling her boss. "That's crazy. That's scary."
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