Cougar sighting has Newcastle residents on alert

NEWCASTLE, Wash. — Three thousand, six hundred. That’s the number of cougars Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has said live here in the Evergreen State.

Following an attack on a Washington woman last month and a fatal attack on a young man in Northern California this weekend, a sighting of a cougar in King County this morning left some locals feeling a little alarmed.

Newcastle sits on the edge of “Cougar Mountain.” The name is no coincidence, as the big cats are known to occasionally prowl through urban areas.

According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy spotted the cougar on a trail behind Newcastle City Hall around 6 a.m. on Monday. The deputy alleges the cougar was “minding its own business” and on the move.

“There isn’t a time of year that’s more active than another, but definitely dawn and dusk are times when most wild animals are more active,” said Captain Jennifer Maurstad with Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

One male cougar is said to inhabit 50 to 150 square miles, and anywhere from two to four female cougars could inhabit that area. These cats are always on the move and rarely stay in one place for long, so Maurstad says that while several sightings of the big cats can sometimes be alarming, “…that doesn’t mean there are several cats. Usually, one cat is just on the move, and people are seeing it.”

If you’re out, especially in areas deemed “cougar country,” the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife encourages people to carry bear spray, keep pets leashed, and never run away from or turn their back on a cougar should you encounter one.

“If things take a turn for the worse and you ever come in contact with a cat, you want to fight back, and that’s how the lady who was attacked recently survived her encounter; she fought back, as did all of her friends,” said Captain Maurstad.

For tips on how to keep you and your home safe from cougars or the prey that could draw them to your home, WDFW has tips on their website.

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