The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that a cougar has been roaming around Bainbridge Island, killing livestock.
DFW Sgt. Ken Balazs said there was initially a “confirmed cougar depredation” about a month ago near Miller Road where a few goats were killed. This past week, three sheep were killed on the southern end of the island in the Blakely area.
A typical response to capture a cougar includes sending hounds to track the cat as Balazs cites “that’s the most efficient way to do it,” but due to the density of homes on the island, they are resorting to setting up traps.
“Our options are kind of limited on the island,” Balazs said. “Our primary thing is to set the trap like we did at both of these locations in hopes that the cat’s going to return to the kill site.”
Balazs said the cougar killed the animals but didn’t eat them, which tells him it has plenty of food, such as deer. The cougar could be a “juvenile” cat from other areas of Kitsap County who was kicked out by the mother, Balazs said.
“I know we’ve had some cat issues up in the Hansville area over the years,” he said. “Sometimes, when a cat has a litter, and she gets estrogen again, she’ll kick those juveniles out after a year or so with her…There may have been a litter of juveniles that are now trying to stake out their own territory.”
A couple of years ago, Balazs said a cougar swam to Vashon Island, indicating that they’re capable of swimming to a place like Bainbridge. He also said the island is “ideal territory” for a cougar because of the large deer population and the livestock, creating an abundance of food.
“They can move around quite a bit; they typically don’t stay in the same area,” Balazs said. “It’s hard to pinpoint where the cat’s going to be at any given point in time. We’re just trying to get a sense of where the cat likes to hang out. They can travel fifteen miles in a night, and it could possibly leave the island at any point in time.”
DFW is also dealing with a cougar sighting in the Olalla area. “It’s kind of unprecedented for Kitsap County to have this many cat issues,” Balazs said. “It’s just one of those things we have to deal with from time to time.”
Balazs said if you have livestock, lock them up in a barn at night as cougars typically roam from dawn till dusk, stating “that’s your best option of keeping your animals safe.” If your livestock is killed, give DFW a call, and don’t move the animals.
“That’s the best situation that’s going to give us the highest amount of potential for success in trapping it,” Balazs said. “I know sometimes people want to collect their dead animals and get them out of there as soon as possible.”
From the cougar’s perspective, movements of small children mimic farm animals, which will trigger a hunting response. “You don’t want to leave kids unsupervised,” Balazs said. Adults need to be aware of their surroundings. In the unlikely event that someone does encounter a cougar, Balazs says to try and make yourself look as big as possible while slowly walking away.
“You do not want to run,” he said. “The cat’s going to track you down at that point.”
If you go for a hike, walk or run on trails or near woods, make sure you have a way to defend yourself with something like a concealed carry weapon or a walking stick, Balazs said.
“If there’s an act of depredation going on, people do have the right to protect their property and that includes their livestock,” he said. “I say this with caution; if you do have a firearm and you have a safe way to dispatch that animal if it’s in an act of depredation, you’re fully within the law to kill that animal. You just need to give us a call, and we’ll come out and do a brief investigation.”
If anyone encounters depredation, call 911.