8/5/2019 Cougar Sighting Near Pioneer Park

This news item has been archived.

Early Monday morning, August 5, the Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) was alerted to a cougar prowling overnight in the vicinity of Pioneer Park, and it was observed clearly on security camera footage near 6400 East Mercer Way before dawn. (Thank you for the photo).

The State Department of Wildlife (WDFW) has also been notified and is investigating. Also known as a mountain lion (Puma concolor), these large felines are typically solitary and very rarely seen in the wild. Cougars vary in color from reddish-brown to tawny (deerlike) to gray, with a black tip on their long tail.

Cougars are most active from dusk to dawn and can occasionally appear in areas of dense human habitation, though this is very uncommon on Mercer Island. Such appearances are almost always brief, with the animal moving along quickly in its search of a more suitable permanent home.

Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare in Washington state, with only two known fatal incidents (1924 and 2018), and 19 other attacks over the past 100 years.

There are a number of practices to follow that can help prevent a conflict with cougars around your property - if possible, all neighbors should attempt to do the same. Read more from WDFW here: https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/puma-concolor#conflict

If you do happen to have a close encounter with a cougar, the WDFW advises the following:

  • Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack; 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, shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available. 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. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake.

Learn more about cougars in WA: https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/puma-concolor

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