As more people venture into the outdoors to enjoy the summer, sightings of potentially dangerous wildlife like cougars and black bears increase.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials say encounters with these animals is rare, but a possibility.
The best way to avoid problems is to understand where and when confrontations are most likely to occur and be cautious in those situations.
"It's unlikely any of us will come across a bear or cougar while in the woods," said WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork."
"Nevertheless, it pays to be alert and aware and keep a few simple rules in mind."
Bears live primarily in wooded areas, where they feed on everything from berries to fish. Cougars prefer dense brush and semi-open forests, but can be found wherever there are deer – their main prey. Both are solitary animals and are most active at dawn and dusk.
For those who live, work, or recreate in or near bear and cougar habitat, WDFW recommends these actions to minimize the chance of a close encounter:
- Keep small children supervised whenever playing outdoors
- Keep pets and their food indoors
- Keep livestock and their food enclosed in sheds or barns at night
- Store garbage in secure containers
- Travel in small groups while hiking or camping and make enough noise to avoid surprising an animal
- Keep small children close to the group, preferably in plain sight just ahead of you
- Keep your camp clean and store food and garbage in double plastic bags as far as possible from where you'll be sleeping
- Do not approach dead animals, which may be a cougar's meal
If you do encounter a bear or cougar, don't run. Pick up small children. Stand tall, wave your arms above your head, and shout. Do not approach the animal and be sure to leave it an escape route. In the case of a bear, avoid direct eye contact.
If the animal mistakes you for prey and attacks, fight back aggressively.
WDFW responds to cougar and bear sightings when there is a threat to public safety or property. Contact your local WDFW officer, regional office, or in the case of an immediate emergency, dial 911.