A cougar was spotted Friday night walking across the cover of a swimming pool at a house in Kennewick not far from Zintel Canyon.
Cesar Noquez told the Tri-City Herald he had gone out in his backyard to bring his dog in Friday night when he saw something moving in his pool area.
He turned his flashlight on it in time to see a cougar running across his pool cover. Then it jumped into a tree, he said
Kennewick police said they got a 911 call about the cougar in the 2000 block of West Ninth Place about 9:45 p.m.
Police officers verified the sighting with cougar paw prints in the dirt, but did not see the mountain lion.
The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife was notified by Kennewick police of the sighting, and anyone seeing signs of a cougar in a residential neighborhood is asked to call non-emergency dispatch at 509-628-0333.
The cougar was one of several spotted in the Tri-Cities this spring.
Over a few days from late March into early April two — possibly three — cougars were spotted.
The night of March 29 a young male cougar was seen in a tree in the 200 block of East 41st Place in Kennewick and later in the yard of a house near West Fourth Avenue and Huntington Place.
It was shot mid morning the next day after orchard workers saw it as they worked on Game Farm Road.
Benton County Sheriff’s Office deputies were concerned that the cougar was in a populated area and that it appeared to stalk deputies as they started to set up a containment area.
A day after the cougar was shot in Kennewick this year, another cougar was reported in the early morning at Road 90 and Sandifur Parkway in Pasco.
Although police were not able to find it, the sighting was verified by a video taken by a Pasco resident of a mountain lion loping down a sidewalk in front of west Pasco homes.
Then on April 4 workers at a new subdivision being built at Clodfelter and Tripple Vista roads just south of Kennewick reported seeing a cougar midday but it wasn’t seen again to be confirmed by officials.
Cougars live near Tri-Cities
Most cougars in Washington state live in forested areas, but there are some that live in the wildland habitat of the Columbia Basin surrounding the Tri-Cities — just not many, said Jason Fidorra, a Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist for Benton and Franklin counties.
But the mountain lions spotted in the Tri-Cities where people live or work likely are passing through, rather than animals who live long-term nearby, Fidorra said.
Young males may mature and be ready to disperse to find their own territories and seek a potential mate in the spring. However, that’s not the only time of year they may pass through since cougars can breed throughout the year.
The natural corridors that in many cases are easiest to follow as they disperse over long distances are rivers.
“And all the rivers seem to lead to the Tri-Cities,” Fidorra said.
There have long been cougars moving through the area, perhaps finding cover along its rivers, he said.
But now there are more people in the Tri-Cities and more development that gives them fewer places to hide.
Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare, according to the Washington state cougar information website. In 94 years, as of 2018, there had been two encounters in the state proving fatal for the person. Nineteen other human encounters with cougars that left a person injured.
There are steps people can take to help make sure they are not among the very few who meet a mountain lion in the Tri-Cities area, particularly if they live in outlying areas.
The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends securing garbage and not leaving out pet food or other food that could draw in wildlife. Garbage and pet food can attract small mammals that, in turn, attract cougars.
Bring pets inside at night to prevent them from being prey to a cougar or coyote, and be aware that cougars may prey on small farm animals, including goats and chicken.
If you meet a cougar
If you come face to face with a cougar, here’s what state wildlife officials say you should know:
▪ Pick up small children and pets, but don’t run. At close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
▪ Face the cougar and talk to it firmly as you slowly back away. Leave the animal an escape route.
▪ Try to look larger than the cougar. Hold your jacket open to look larger and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone you may be with.
▪ Don’t take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not try to hide.
▪ If the cougar does not flee or shows signs of aggression — crouching with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump — wave your arms and throw anything you have, like a water bottle, at the animal.
▪ If the cougar attacks, fight back and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who fought back using sticks, rocks, shovels backpacks, clothing and even their bare hands. If you are aggressive enough the cougar will realize it has made a mistake and flee.