SPOKANE--In the wake of a cougar attack which injured a 4-year-old boy yesterday in Ferry County, state wildlife officials remind citizens that such attacks are extremely rare, although they have increased in the last decade.
The boy was attacked about 2:30 p.m., Tuesday as he played outside a relative's rural home in a wooded area near Barstow, about 11 miles north of his hometown of Kettle Falls. Friends and family scared the cougar off and rushed the boy to a Colville hospital where he was treated for multiple wounds and was last reported to be in stable condition.
The cougar, a young male, was tracked and killed less than three hours after the incident within a quarter-mile of the attack site by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers and a local hound hunter. The cougar's brain is being tested for rabies.
Yesterday's attack was the tenth recorded in Washington state, but the eighth in the last decade.
The only fatality in Washington was the first recorded attack in 1924 in Okanogan County.
The increase of dangerous wildlife encounters in the 1990s may be due to an increase in both human and animal populations.
Cougar numbers have risen from about 1,250 in the early 1980s to about 2,500 today. As in many predator-prey relationships, their increase has resulted from two decades of conservative hunting seasons and an increase in deer populations, which have thrived through several seasons of relatively mild winters. Awareness of cougars – and sightings and complaints reported by the public -- also has increased.
Cougar hunting has changed since the 1996 voter-approved ban on the use of hounds to hunt cougars, but currently, direct correlations between harvest numbers and cougar attacks cannot be made. In response to the hound ban, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission lengthened the cougar hunting season by three months (it now runs from August 1 to March 31) and lowered tag fees from $24 to $5 to encourage deer and elk hunters to make incidental harvests of cougars.
With the cougar hunting season underway this year, WDFW officers in the northeast region of the state are attempting to put landowners who complain of cougar threats (mostly to livestock) in touch with cougar hunters to increase the chances of harvesting potentially troublesome cougars.
Anyone encountering a cougar is advised to observe the following precautions to minimize the risk of injury or attack:
- Don't run; pick up small children so they will not run.
- Stand tall; stand on a stump, rock or other available object to appear as large as possible. Do not crouch.
- Shout, wave arms and throw rocks or sticks.
- Do not take your eyes off the cougar.
- If attacked, fight back and try to remain standing.
For more information on cougars consult the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov on the Internet (see: Cougar Facts for more information).