Stevens County sheriff says cougar conflicts on the rise

RaeLynn Ricarte

Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke said a cougar shot last week near a residence east of Arden was the 40th killed in the area due to conflicts with domestic animals during the past year.
“I’ve worked here for 23 years now. The first 18, I would hear about cougar sightings and conflicts, but in the last three years that has increased rapidly,” he said. 
“I’m not a biologist but I believe, based on the amount of cougar complaints we now field, that the population is out of control.”
He said 2019 was a high year for cougars killing domestic animals and livestock, but 2018 was also a year with many incidents.
“Our deer population has gotten so low because of predators and diseases that I think they are running out of things to eat so they are drawn to farms and residential properties,” he said.
The latest incident occurred in the evening of Feb. 12, said Manke.
A resident in the 900 block of Artman Gibson Road, east of Arden, reported to the emergency dispatch center that a cougar had chased her dog around the yard and then come onto her deck, where it remained.
Manke said Sgt. Jason Foster and Deputy Colton Schumacher arrived within 20 minutes to find the cougar still on the deck. Although it jumped down into the yard, Manke said the cat did not run away as would be expected from a wild animal approached by humans.
Law enforcement officials shot and killed the collared cat and its remains were turned over to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Manke.
“This cougar had no fear,” he said. “It’s rare that we show up and the cat’s still there — usually we get a call that someone’s goat’s been killed, but the cat is long gone.”
He said what was very concerning about the situation was that there were four or five houses in the neighborhood and the families had children or grandchildren around. He said the livestock owner, in the recent case, would have been fully justified to have killed the cougar that was posing a threat to his animals and family. 
“People have the right by law to protect pets, livestock, personal property and themselves,” he said. 
Manke said people should not report random sightings of cougars, such as at the edge of the forest or “the back 40” of a pasture because that is to be expected in a rural area.
However, he said anytime cougars come into a residential area or start stalking livestock, it is time to call authorities at 911 if there is an immediate threat, or 509-684-2555.
Manke said he believes the state needs to manage the growing cougar population by lengthening the hunting season, raising quotas and bringing back a hound hunting season that was outlawed in 1996.
The Northeast Washington Wildlife Group agrees with Manke that incidents like the one near Arden are occurring with more frequency.
“Why else would you have a cougar in your back yard trying to make dinner out of your dog? This was a cat that had been chased by hounds, captured and collared, and yet still acted as it did,” said Dale Magart, secretary of the group.
He said when cougars were hunted with hounds, they were scared of dogs and humans. But that no longer seems to be the case, as evidenced by the behavior of the cat last week.
“Thankfully, no pet was killed and no one was injured, but the time is coming — and it may be sooner than later — before someone is hurt or worse,” said Magart.