Officials post cougar sighting signs throughout park in Mercer Island; no new sightings reported

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — Cougar sighting signs were posted throughout Pioneer Park on Mercer Island on Friday after a cougar was spotted near the park early Monday.

City officials said Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officers and trained tracking dogs spent hours in and around the areas where the cougar was seen but no cougar was found.

Officials said that, for the dogs to effectively track the cougar, a fresh scent from the animal is needed.

As of Friday afternoon, no new sightings have been reported to the Department of Fish and Wildlife since the initial sightings were reported, officials said.

The cougar was seen on a security camera -- see video below -- in the 6000 block of East Mercer Way and officials said it was “very uncommon” for one to have been seen on Mercer Island.

>> When was the last fatal cougar attack in the Northwest? See details of past attacks

Officials said there have been two fatal cougar attacks and 19 other cougar attacks in the state in the past 100 years.

According to WDFW, cougars are most active from dusk to dawn and will occasionally appear in areas of dense human habitation.

The department gave the following advice to anyone who has an encounter with a cougar:

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, for example, by stepping 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.

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