Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers this morning issued safety warnings to residents near a section of the Kalama River while a private hound hunter continued searching for a cougar that reportedly jumped a male angler yesterday, knocking him to the ground.
The man, a Fort Lewis resident in his mid-30s, was not injured but his frame backpack showed claw marks.
WDFW officers, assisted by a hound hunter, searched the area about 10 miles northeast of Kalama for several hours yesterday afternoon after interviewing the angler.
The man told officers he was jumped from behind and knocked face-first to the ground as he was hiking out from the Kalama River shortly before 11 a.m. yesterday with a 25-pound chinook salmon wrapped in a plastic bag and tied to the outside of a frame backpack. When he rolled to his side to get up he saw a "huge" cougar disappearing into a brushy area about 12 to15 feet away. The man hiked out to a nearby mini-mart where he encountered a state hatchery worker who reported the incident to WDFW officers.
Hunting hounds summoned to the area of the attack were able to pick up the cougar's scent yesterday afternoon, but with daylight waning could not follow the cat's trail into a steep area. The hound hunter returned to the area this morning after suspending the search yesterday evening.
Meanwhile this morning, a WDFW officer visited a residential area along Greenwood Road above the area where the cat disappeared to alert residents and children who wait along the road for school buses. The enforcement officers plan to distribute written cougar safety information to area residents later today.
"We are following up to protect the public," said Murray Schlenker, the WDFW regional enforcement captain for southwest Washington. "We consider this an extremely serious incident."
Under WDFW policy, cougars that attack humans are tracked and killed.
The department offers the following safety tips for citizens who live in or near cougar habitat:
- Closely supervise children playing outdoors, and make sure they are indoors by dusk, when cougars are more active.
- Keep pets indoors or in secure kennels at night, and never leave pet food or food scraps outside.
- Light walkways and remove heavy vegetation near the house.
- Store garbage in secure containers so odors do not attract small animals that are prey for cougars.
If you encounter a cougar:
- Stop, stand tall, pick up small children and don't run. A cougar's instinct is to chase.
- Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens.
- Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
- If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
- If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet.
To report a cougar encounter that is a risk to human safety, immediately contact the Washington State Patrol, which will relay the incident to WDFW enforcement officers or call the WDFW emergency incident hotline at 1-(800)477-6224.
For more information on cougars see Living with Cougars in Washington on the WDFW website.