With the recent report of a cougar seen slinking around in Kennewick near East 41st Place, and another a few weeks ago, folks are wondering what's driving these big cats into populated urban areas.
Cougars seen more often these days.
Over the last few years, especially near West Richland, Benton City, and south Kennewick, we're hearing and seeing more reports (confirmed) of cougars just milling around.
Wildlife experts say in the western U.S., as more land is developed, there is going to be a natural overlap between humans and cougars. They're very transitory animals, and it's not unusual for them to wander into areas formerly not occupied by lots of people. But that's not the WHOLE story.
WA Fish and Wildlife Weighs in
Jason Fidorra of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife told us it's a variety of reasons why people are seeing cougars, and there are many.
This cougar, much like most of the others seen, are usually younger males. They're doing what's called "dispersing," or just heading out to find food and shelter. Fidorra said in Eastern Washington, the rivers lead to the Tri-City area.
These cats, and other animals, tend to follow rivers, seeking food, prey, and water. They are NOT looking for people or specifically targeting smaller animals, such as dogs, cats, etc. And often they wind up here before moving on.
Fidorra said these animals want nothing to do with humans, when they're spotted in neighborhoods or outskirts of town, they are in places he says they "don't want to be."
Like other experts, Fidorra says cougars are the most elusive and reclusive of the big cat species. There's no indication there are any cougar 'dens' in our region, but he also said there is very little data on them because they're so mobile and wander such large distances.
And finally, the digital age has captured what's been going on for decades
Fidorra said cougars have been roaming our region for hundreds of years, but as urban areas grow, people are seeing more of them. What used to be 50 acres of brush is now full of homes, so a cougar is going to pass by.
And, with all the video surveillance cameras, ring doorbells and other digital tools, people are now capturing the activity of ALL animals they never knew existed. Fidorra told us of one person who called DFW and said there's a raccoon in his yard regularly but said he didn't notice until he installed video surveillance cameras.
Fidorra told the man that raccoon has probably been there for years, you just never saw it til now. So, there you go.
He says DFW handles all 'dangerous' potential wildlife sightings very seriously and does urge caution and avoidance if you do happen to see a cougar or other large unusual possibly predatory animal in person. Worst-case scenario? Contact local law enforcement or call 9-1-1.
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