Cougar killed after slaying sheep near Quilcene

Male cat euthanized after Fish & Wildlife investigation

QUILCENE — A cougar that was thought to have killed a sheep was euthanized by state Fish & Wildlife officers the next day near Dabob Road.

Fish & Wildlife was called to a home on Dabob Road where residents reported at about 1 p.m. Saturday that three sheep were dead and they were thought to have been killed by a cougar.

After investigating, Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Kit Rosenberger, the supervising officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, and his team determined that at least one of the sheep could be confirmed a cougar kill.

On Sunday morning, officers contracted a houndsman and located the cougar, a two-and-a-half-year-old male, and euthanized it, Rosenberger said.

This is the third cougar to be killed in the area recently. A female cougar and her kitten were put down in the end of May, which had caused the Quilcene School District to go into a modified lockdown.

Cougar sightings are not out of the ordinary in the rural areas of Jefferson and Clallam counties, Rosenberger said. But when a cougar attacks livestock it’s normally because the cat is either too young to know better or has some medical issue such as age, missing teeth/claws or illnesses.

“Most cougars know what’s food and what’s not,” Rosenberger said. “Deer and elk smell different, they act different, they look different than a goat or a sheep or something like that.”

Cougars are elusive and solitary animals, and are normally only seen in groups when it is a mother with her cubs, who will stay with her for the first two years of their life, to learn to hunt and survive, before heading off to find their own territory, Rosenberger said.

The cougar euthanized Sunday is suspected to have only recently left his mother and “didn’t know how the world works yet,” Rosenberger said.

“Occasionally the younger ones are not successful at hunting or they haven’t made that distinction,” Rosenberger said.

“Once they realize it’s easier to kill a goat or a sheep or something like that, they make the switch to start to target those domestic livestock.

“In those situations we come in and track the cougar down that took down livestock and euthanize it to remove it from that area. We don’t want it to keep doing what its doing there.”

Male cougars often will have a large territory of land that does not overlap with another male’s territory. Within the one male’s territory, there can be as many as two to five females, Rosenberger said.

As of 2017, the estimated population is approximately 2.1 cougars per 38.61 square miles in Washington. When multiplied by the available habitat, the statewide population is estimated at 1,800 to 2,100 animals, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Cougars have the ability to breed year round, so there is no official season where more kittens will be with or leaving their mothers, Rosenberger said.

Cougars can be hunted in Washington state; the hunting season for them starts on Sept. 1 and ends April 30. As of 2017, approximately 200 cougars are killed on average by Washington hunters a year, accounting for 48 percent of their overall mortality rate, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. More information regarding hunting cougars can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/big-game/cougar.

To prevent cougars from attacking livestock, Rosenberger recommends having good animal husbandry; having well built fences and locking up animals at night if possible, and also keep paddocks away from heavily wooded areas.

If there is an emergency involving a cougar, call 9-1-1. If a cougar is spotted near an urban area, but it is not an emergency situation, Rosenberger suggests calling the department’s dispatch at 1-877-933-9847.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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