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No Chances
Cougar put down

David Asia photographed this cougar in a tree by his house and later wrote about it. The cougar was put down by state Department of Fish and Wildlife employees last week.

Last week the end came for a cougar that had gotten used to humans. Along the Twisp River, just down from Frost Road, Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Rich Beausoleil led the team that tranquilized the cougar, moved her to the hills, and shot her.

“We had captured her about a month ago” in the same area when she had been treed by dogs, said Beausoleil. They tranquilized the cougar, put on a radio collar, and let her go in the Elbow Coulee wildlife area. She stayed there a while, but eventually drifted back to the easy pickings close to the river with people, buildings and deer wintering over. So the Department of Wildlife stepped up their tracing, checking her movement daily. It became clear that she was getting very comfortable around people and people’s homes, staying in the Twisp River neighborhood.

Beausoleil said he finally thought that “this one is coming down to a judgment call and I didn’t want to take any chances. I’m not comfortable with this cat any more.”

Beausoleil came from his Wenatchee office to the Twisp River, and found that the cat had dragged a dead deer in under a building. “You can’t rehab them like you can bears,” he said, so he knew that the cougar had to go.

There was some concern that the female cougar had a kitten. Beausoleil said that the cougar hadn’t been near any kitten for the week or so before they took action. They have set traps and have watched for a kitten but the traps are empty and there are no tracks in the recent dusting of snow. “We’ll go a few more days” with the search said Beausoleil, before they give it up.

If they do find a kitten, they will likely trap it and give it to an institution such as a zoo to raise and care for.

The Washington State Department of Wildlife has been studying cougars in the Methow Valley for about a decade, he said.  Most cougars stay well clear of humans, but some decide on the easy pickings of civilization. “They’re always going to lose when they get too close to people.”

Beausoleil pointed out three main things would help keep cougars out of neighborhoods:

  • Discourage deer. “What follows the deer is the cougar,” he said. Do not feed the deer - in fact, do things like pick the apples out of old orchards and clear anything edible for deer out of the yard in the fall.

  • Close up any spaces that are sheltered, but have a route into them - spaces such as under decks or shed roofs - so that cougars won’t move in.

  • Make sure no carrion or other cougar - food is around. Beausoleil explained that dogs will sometimes kill deer and then leave them - attractive, easy pickings for a hungry cougar.




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