With the new potential sighting (July 29, 2020), is it possible that the same cougar from last year has returned?

    The location of this first 2020 sighting is very close to the first reported (and photo-confirmed) sighting from August 5, 2019. While WDFW believes it's unlikely for the same individual to reattempt the swim to MI from the east shore of Lake Washington, it's too soon to know either way. Recent cougar sightings (some with photos) have been reported to WDFW in Marymoor Park, Juanita, and Kenmore.

    Where can I learn more about safety practices and what to do if I encounter the cougar?

    The WDFW is the agency that regulates wildlife and it has extensive resources online here

    I’m nervous about spending time in my yard, Pioneer Park, etc. Should I not spend time outdoors?

    The WDFW advises that residents can continue normal activities outside as they have always done.  If the cougar is still on Mercer Island, it is most likely active only during the middle of the night, so it is unlikely residents would encounter the cougar during the hours people are normally active outside, but make sure you educate yourself on what to do in case you encounter the cougar. If you are inclined, you can also carry bear spray for defense.

    See WDFW advice here

    I walk my dog in the evenings. What should I do to keep us safe?

    The two most important things to do are to keep your dog on leash and make plenty of noise while walking to avoid a surprise encounter.

    Does the fact that Mercer Island is a small, highly populated island change a cougar’s behavior?

    Yes. Cougars using densely populated/highly developed areas tend to shift their activities and movements almost exclusively to night-time.  The WDFW expects the cougar to concentrate its activity in areas with the least amount of human presence and/or disturbance.

    If I hear a strange noise (ex. screaming or calling), how can I tell if it’s a cougar?

    The WDFW states that cougars have a number of vocalizations, many of which sound like chirps and whistles.  Most of these vocalizations are done to communicate with other cougars (e.g., a female and her offspring), so it is extremely unlikely a person would hear a cougar vocalizing while on Mercer Island. Cougars do not typically scream.

    What is the City doing and why is it taking so long to find the cougar?

    2019 Answer: As soon as the Cougar was first spotted (via the confirmed video camera footage from Aug 5, 2019) the MIPD has been working very closely on a daily basis with WDFW experts to find the animal. WDFW has received dozens of tips from the public and has investigated all leads and potential sightings. WDFW has sent tracking experts and dog handlers here several times in attempts to refine the search area and find a scent trail. While MIPD Officers are not trained to capture or track wildlife, they are prepared to use force if an animal poses an imminent threat to the public. Anyone with potential cougar sightings is asked to call 9-1-1 immediately, rather than reporting it via social media.

    School is starting soon; are Island children in danger?

    2019 Answer: The WDFW does not believe children are in danger.