Cougar sightings prompt cautions

LAKE STEVENS — Recent reports of cougar sightings within city limits may or may not be true, but locals need to remember they live side by side with wildlife.

Bears and cougars have been known to appear in the area once in a while, said Greg Rockenbach, who runs a fishing supply store in Lake Stevens.

He said people need to understand how to take precautions to avoid unpleasant encounters with cougars and other wildlife. One such precaution is making lots of noise when hiking.

Rockenbach said there are other, common-sense things, like making sure your trash cans are closed and your pets and farm animals are safely locked away after dark.

“It’s just like living in the city,” Rockenbach said. “You don’t leave anything in your car, do you?”

Although cougar reports happen several times a year, it’s a rare occasion to actually see a cougar, said Nicholas Jorg, an officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If you do see one, don’t run or turn your back on the animal, Jorg said, explaining that a cougar’s first instinct is to chase.

Jorg said you should immediately pick up children and keep your eyes focused on the cougar. Talk firmly and slowly back away. If the animal doesn’t flee, try to get it to perceive you as a threat. Waving your arms, throwing things and making a lot of noise will make you appear bigger than the cougar.

Jorg said the department received seven reports in Snohomish County this year but, based on people’s accounts of what they saw, it’s extremely unlikely that all of them were true.

He said people often mistake German shepherds, yellow Labs and bobcats for cougars.

Jorg said cougars are usually pretty docile animals, and will give humans a wide berth. That is, if you respect them.

Respect means never trying to approach a cougar, its kittens or its kill.

Trying to feed a cougar or take its picture is also off limits, Jorg said.

Sgt. Randy Lambert, who works with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Snohomish County, said attacks are extremely rare but people still need to be careful. He said they also need to remember that cougars are, by nature, not aggressive animals.

“They hunt deer, not people,” he said. “They are just curious, kind of like big house cats.”

Reporter Katya Yefimova: kyefimova@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3452.

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