September 28, 1998
Resident urges law change after cougar attacks dog
State says cat numbers up, but not just due to hound hunting ban
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--A Woodinville resident who once voted to ban hound hunting is now urging her neighbors to call their legislators about changing the law after a cougar attacked and presumably killed a dog in her own neighborhood.
Gloria Logan, a mother of two, says she once thought hunting cougars with dogs was cruel.
"Now, I don't care if it's cruel. My 25-pound two-year-old is the size of their prey," Logan says.
On Sept. 18, her neighbors watched as a cougar the size of a German shepherd leapt out from behind some brush, grabbed a small Yorkshire terrier and ran off with the pet in its mouth.
The attack occurred inside city limits off of 152nd Ave. N.E. between N.E. 190th and N.E. 192nd St. The area is described as woody and brushy with an east-west ravine running through it.
"This was a mile from downtown Woodinville," Logan said, "not outside Duvall."
Logan, like over 60 percent of voters, voted for Initiative 655 which banned hunting cougars with hounds as well as baiting bears. She said she voted in favor because she thought there were better methods to hunt cougars.
Wrong, a state official says.
Steve Pozzanghera, state Department of Fish and Wildlife Carnivore, Fur-bearer and Permit Species Section manager, says there is "no doubt hound hunting is the most efficient, most effective way of taking cougars."
While humans must rely on their eyes to spot a cat or see its tracks, dogs can follow their scent as well as pursue over ground at speeds and distances we can't.
Pozzanghera agreed that suburban cougar encounters are becoming more and more common, citing recent newspaper stories about a cougar sighting four blocks from the governor's mansion in Olympia.
Since last spring, callers to the Woodinville Weekly have reported seeing cougars near Saybrook and Hollywood Hill.
Cindy Schmidt said she spotted a cougar near the Wellington Hills Golf Course Sept. 19. Calling it "too close for comfort for me," Schmidt said she isn't letting her kids play outside for now.
According to Pozzanghera, cougar populations are on a 15-year rebound, more than doubling their numbers from the early 1980s.
He says there are two factors: better hunting regulation, and a change in cougars' diets.
Between the 1930s and '60s, Pozzanghera says there were bounties on cats. In the '60s and '70s, the game department began to regulate hunting. In the early '80s, the state went to a permit hunting system for cougars.
[With permitting] "We can very precisely control hunting," Pozzanghera said. The state can fine- tune the number of hunters, where they can hunt and limit the number of cats taken.
Essentially, this allowed the cat population to grow.
Where there were about 1,000 cougars in the early '80s, the state now conservatively estimates there are 2,500 across Washington.
It's a trend he says that isn't just being seen in Washington.
"All western states are experiencing the effects of conservative hunting. We have more cats," he said.
Cougars have been pushed into suburban areas, as well as seeing their territory invaded as homes are built in former wildlands.
Pozzanghera says cougars are also eating differently.
"Cougars are using a wider assortment of prey. It used to be deer and elk. But as urban development has expanded and the number of urban animals has too, cougars have begun to take advantage of those populations," he says. Their diet now includes raccoons as well as pets.
But while I-655 took hunters' best tool away, believe it or not, Pozzanghera says nowadays more sportsmen are going after cougars.
Since passage of the initiative, game officials have eliminated the permit hunt, lengthened the season from August to mid-March and dropped the price of a cougar tag from $24 to $5.
"From a standpoint of participation, we've increased the number of hunters. We went from a permit hunt to an open season," Pozzanghera said.
But the cougar harvest has dropped almost 54 percent. According to the game department, there were 132 cats killed last year, 178 in 1996 when hunters could hunt with hounds up until halfway through the season, and 283 in 1995 before the ban.
A bill introduced in the state senate in '97 and 98 that would allow agents of the game department to "take" cougars, black bears, bobcat and lynx has twice been referred to the committee on Natural Resources and Parks.
Game officials say that cougars don't like people and are afraid of us. Only one person has been killed in Washington by a cat, and that occurred in 1924, according to Public Information Officer Chuck Bolland.
But it seems cougars are becoming more brazen. A cat that killed a dog on the Eastside this summer also mortally wounded state hounds sent in after it before being shot. In Oregon, a man reported a cougar following him and his family that wasn't afraid of warning shots last winter.
Though cougar encounters aren't common, Bolland says people need to use common sense. Here are some tips on how to reduce the odds of coming across one.
- Keep pets indoors and farm animals enclosed at night;
- Stow pet food and garbage;
- Supervise small children playing outside.
- Outdoor enthusiasts shouldn't go alone into the woods. To avoid cats, make noise, keep a clean camp and don't approach dead animals. Cougars eat part of their kills and then come back later to eat again, officials say.
- If a cougar is encountered, Bolland said to back away slowly, speak in a firm voice and make yourself as tall as possible by raising your arms and clothing above your head.
"Summing up, do not look like food," Bolland said. "Remember, you're dealing with cats. They love things that dart around. Think of your house cat."
If attacked, fight back aggressively.
Bolland said if you see a cougar, call 911. Dispatchers will relay the message to game officials who can come out and trap, dart or tree the cats if possible.