Authorities kill cougar in Richland, WA

Don't need to leave home to hunt cougars now. :)

Saturday, Apr. 16, 2011

Authorities kill cougar in Richland

By Paula Horton, Herald staff writer
Construction workers arriving to work on a home in south Richland got a shock Friday morning when they found a cougar inside.

The young male, estimated to be about 16 months old, was shot and killed after Richland police and an officer with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife determined that was the safest option.

"It wasn't a quick decision," said Fish & Wildlife Officer Brian Fulton. "It's not something we enjoy doing or prefer to do all the time."

The cougar was found at 9:15 a.m. inside a house under construction at 300 Soaring Hawk St. It's a newer neighborhood off Gage Boulevard and above the Crested Hills subdivision.

When officers arrived, the cougar had moved to the basement and was hiding in a nook, Fulton said.

The home is in the framing stage, with windows and plywood up, but no doors, so officers knew they weren't going to be able to keep the cougar secured inside. Based on the location, the number of people in the area and other safety concerns, Fulton said they unfortunately had to euthanize the 6-foot-long cat.

"Sometimes drugs work, and sometimes drugs don't work," he said. "There was just too much risk to go that route."

There's a misconception that animals that are tranquilized immediately are knocked out, Fulton said. Sometimes it can take five minutes for the drugs to kick in, sometimes 20 minutes, he said.

And sometimes, the tranquilizer dart might not hit the animal in the right place "and now you've got an animal that might be upset because it just got a needle shot into it," he said.

Fulton said he talked to his supervisors and to a cougar expert before they decided they had to kill the cougar.

If it had been in a less-populated area, they possibly could have tried something else. But Fulton said while this home was under construction, there are occupied homes directly across the street.

It's not completely unusual to find a cougar around the Tri-Cities, but Fulton said it's atypical to see one in a residential neighborhood.

Cougars live in the Horse Heaven Hills.

This one likely had just been kicked out of the litter by his mother and was trying to find his own territory, Fulton said.

"The cougar probably just happened to be wandering through, but he just wound up in the wrong place," he said.

Richland police Capt. Jeff Taylor said Friday's incident was the first time he can think of where a cougar was found in the city, but said it could happen more often as cougar populations increase.

"We're pushing out up into that area where typically it's just been sagebrush and hills," he said.

The state's cougar population is fairly healthy, Fulton said. Cougars don't want to be around humans and likely are more afraid of people than people are of cougars, he said.

If someone comes across a cougar, the best advice is not to run, to stand your ground and make noise, he said. The goal is to make yourself appear as large as possible and make it known that you're not something the cougar wants to prey on, Fulton said.

Anyone who comes across a cougar in a dangerous situation or encounters a cougar where it's not supposed to be can call 911 or the wildlife hotline at 1-877-933-9847.

Fulton said hikers who see a cougar in the wild that's not threatening should just enjoy the sight.

"You should consider yourself fortunate to see one out in the wild," he said. "Cougars are fairly reclusive."



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