QUILCENE — Quilcene School was placed on lockdown for the third time in as many weeks after a reported cougar sighting near campus.
Also, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office released security camera images of four cougars gathered on private property just outside the unincorporated community in April.
Quilcene School District went into a modified lockdown Tuesday while state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials and local authorities investigated a cougar sighting on Linger Longer Road.
A student reported seeing a cougar while walking to school at about 7:37 a.m., Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Apeland said.
“A girl was walking to school with her mom and saw an animal go across the road,” said Matt Blankenship, wildlife conflict specialist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The animal was about the size of a lab. She didn’t see a tail.”
State wildlife officers and Jefferson County deputies were unable to locate the cougar, Apeland said.
The school lockdown was lifted Tuesday afternoon.
Students were advised to stay in groups while outside the building and to walk to or from campus in groups of two or more.
The district offered to provide transportation to students who normally walk to school, according to a Tuesday announcement.
“We tried to take precautions,” district Superintendent Frank Redmon said Wednesday.
Quilcene School was first placed on lockdown for a cougar sighting near the football field May 23.
Redmon said it was the first cougar sighting near the school in recent memory.
Later that evening, Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies investigated a report of a cougar sighting on Muncie Avenue near the Big Quilcene River and found a mountain lion feeding on a house cat or other small animal under a vehicle.
Deputy Adam Newman shot and killed the cougar as it ran from the vehicle to a nearby porch, Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole said in a recent interview.
Wildlife officials said the cat that was shot May 23 was an emaciated adult female.
Another cougar was shot and killed by a county deputy May 31. That cougar was reportedly stalking livestock at a Center Road property 12:37 p.m., Apeland said.
The second cougar, which caused a second lockdown at Quilcene School, was a 30-pound, 15- to 18-month-old kitten and the offspring of the cougar that was shot eight days prior, Blankenship said.
“The first one harvested was an adult female,” Blankenship said.
“The second one was one of her kittens. They were just moving together.”
Blankenship said the mother might have been traveling with another kitten before it was shot May 23.
“Typically, they have two to three in the litter,” Blankenship said.
“It is very possible there is another one around.
“We haven’t seen anything yet,” he added.
Blankenship said the odds of a juvenile cougar surviving without its mother are “very low.”
“They really take that time with mother to learn how to hunt,” Blankenship said.
Wildlife officials are not actively searching for kittens from the same litter.
“We’re hoping the animal’s going to kind of move on,” Blankenship said.
“We want to give it a chance.”
Apeland provided Tuesday photographs of four cougars seen together April 15 at an undisclosed location outside of Quilcene.
“Those were bigger cats,” Apeland said.
Blankenship said it is “kind of rare occurrence,” but not unprecedented, to see groups of adult mountain lions together.
Cougars are considered solitary animals. Adult males have ranges of about 120 square miles and adult females have territories about a third of that size, Blankenship said.
Nole said cougar sightings have become more common in residential areas and sheriff’s deputies have the authority to shoot dangerous or injured animals.
In March, a cougar was shot and killed by state wildlife agents in Mason County after it attacked and ate a pet dog on a beach near Hoodsport.
On Sunday, a cougar was euthanized after it attacked a 4-year-old child at a city park in Leavenworth. The child was not seriously injured.
To report a cougar sighting, phone the state Department of Fish and Wildlife 877-933-9847.
Call 9-1-1 if there is an immediate emergency.
For information on cougars, go to www.tinyurl.com/PDN-cougars.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].