Cougar Inside Bellingham Yard

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This beautiful big cat is a large cougar, also called a mountain lion. It was seen prowling a backyard in the city of Bellingham this past weekend and photographed by the folks who live there. As the photographer wrote, when giving us permission to post this photo, “I hope the article can appreciate that we’ve invaded their space and so long as we keep our distance, they’re really not a danger to us.​”

While that is true, small children playing in their own backyards may be vulnerable; so might pets. But cougars prefer deer and - well, yes, we do have a lot of deer in Bellingham.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, there have been only 19 reported attacks on humans in the last 100 years. The last fatal attack was in 2018 near Seattle.

The WDFW website does give advice on how to adjust for cougars prowling inside cities. The advice is dramatic and more than most homeowners will want to do on the rare chance a cougar comes calling.

The folks who took the photo prefer to remain anonymous, and we certainly respect that. There are substantial woods bordering the city limits on both the east and west sides of Bellingham. We sometimes forget that we live next to wilderness here in the far corner of the Pacific Northwest.

We post these photos because this is a dangerous animal and we need to be aware cougars do venture into our city. What precautions we should take - or whether our wildlife officials should live-trap and remove them - are issues for public process. But the fact is, cougars are here.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Mike Rostron

Jul 21, 2020

This post is not going to make me any friends!

I love cougars. I wish there were more of them and less domestic dogs and cats. In the last 100 years there have been 125 attracks and 27 deaths from Mt. Lions in North America. Contrast that with the 4.5 million bites reported in the USA, and the millions of maimings and deaths that occur world wide each year. Not many people get too excited about dogs. Same with sharks. A couple of people, usually surfers, get killed each year, but humans kill millions of sharks every year—many just for their fins.   

Over decades of walking and hiking, all over Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, I’ve encountered many wild animals, but only been serously threatened or bitten by dogs. My wife, who was a mail carrier, was bitten several times by dogs—but never by a Mt. Lion!   

Additionally, dog feces are a significant contributer to pollution in Puget Sound, amounting to many tons per day.   

But of course John is right. They are “wild” creatures, and one on one without a weapon they are higher on the food chain then we are—so be aware!                      

Some informative links:

https://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-quick-statistics.php

“Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. Nearly 1 out of 5 bites becomes infected.”

“There was an 86% increase in dog bite-related hospitalization stays between 1993 and 2008 in the United States.”

“Dog attack victims suffer over $1 billion in monetary losses annually. JAMA reports this estimate to be as high as $2 billion.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_cougar_attacks_in_North_America

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/campaign-to-keep-dog-droppings-out-of-puget-sound/

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 22, 2020

Mike,

It’s a corollary of the old Man Bites Dog story.  What gets the attention is the unusual and this big cat is the unusual and your comments are right on the spot.  Our cougar, as well as Barkley the Bear, does tell a larger story about habitat loss and disturbance of animal patterns and habits.

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Nicholas Sotak

Jul 22, 2020

Mike,

As a dog owner I agree with you.  While I do my best to be responsible for my animal, I understand the problem.  The dog waste issue is significant, and while I believe most people dispose of their waste properly I can’t help but scratch my head when I see bagged poop littering many of the local trails.  I have yet to see a cougar in the wild, and spend a lot of time running in the woods…but plenty of these filled dog poop bags. 

Back to community cougars; I’m not sure if my little dog is a temptation or not, but she’s certainly the right size for a quick snack.  Of course I don’t want her to be eaten, but I’m all for keeping the wild wild.  My hope is this cougar can serve as motivation to consider how future development of open space impacts our wild neighbors, and ultimately our community.

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Scott Wicklund

Jul 23, 2020

In the last month, I have buried three deer carcuses on my secluded hillside.  I have seen and heard coyotes but no cougars.  I did interrupt a juvenile turkey vulture feasting on the carcuses.  They say a vulture can smell a deer carcus a mile away.

 

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Wendy Harris

Oct 01, 2020

Maybe we should less concerned that the cougar is there than with why so. Cougars avoid people, as do most animals. When they start showing up in our yards, something is going on and I do not think it is because there has been a boom in biodiversity. The real problem is that we are still colonizers. We are stealing the land and food where these lost animals belong. They often have nowhere to go and are hungry. These kinds of human\wildlife conflicts are unnecessary with proper conservation planning. 

There is so much development going on out in the NW county that land is not being protected for open spaces, wildlife and water.  We should be providing compensatory mitigation and were advised of this in the COB Wildlife and Habitat Assessment and Wildlife Habitat Plan of 1995 and follow up in 2003 by Ann Eissinger of Nakeeta Northwest, which the city never adopted as final, although it remains the seminal work done for modern times and was referred to by letter sent on behalf of the city as best available science in 2008. Now we have a restoration plan that never assessed wildlife at all. It looked at the habitat that existed. So maybe on paper, Padden Creek looks great, but unless you know that there are trails and bike paths running throughout the riparian zone, you would not know that a good part of its habitat value has been destroyed. 

Or, you could keep printing alarming stories to scare the heck out of people about the wildlife that shows up in their backyard because it is starving. We had a cougar sighting up where I live and the poor thing was scared to death when it saw people and ran away. The next evening I heard the farmers’ midnight rifle shots.

We are losing our wildlife because of deliberate actions by the city and county.  People in both places, regardless of politics, routinely note how they highly value local wildlife when the Park Departments do surveys. Why aren’ these values reflected in our development plans? The county and city do want to lose land that could provide revenue. That is why we all need to pick up our pens and send in letters or make virtual comments are hearings.   

 

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Wendy Harris

Oct 01, 2020

Maybe we should less concerned that the cougar is there than with why so. Cougars avoid people, as do most animals. When they start showing up in our yards, something is going on and I do not think it is because there has been a boom in biodiversity. The real problem is that are still colonizers. We are stealing the land and food where these lost animals belong. They often have nowhere to go and are hungry. These kinds of human\wildlife conflicts are unnecessary with proper conservation planning. 

There is so much development going on out in the NW county that land is not being protected for open spaces, wildlife and water.  We should be providing compensatory mitigation and were advised of this in the COB Wildlife and Habitat Assessment and Wildlife Habitat Plan of 1995 and follow up in 2003 by Ann Eissinger of Nakeeta Northwest, which the city never adopted as final, although it remains the seminal work done for modern times and was referred to by letter sent on behalf of the city as best available science in 2008. Now we have a restoration plan that never assessed wildlife at all. It looked at the habitat that existed. So maybe on paper, Padden Creek looks great, but unless you know that there are trails and bike paths running throughout the riparian zone, you would not know that a good part of its habitat value has been destroyed. 

Or, you could keep printing alarming stories to scare the heck out of people about the wildlife that shows up in their backyard because it is starving. We had a cougar sighting up where I live and the poor thing was scared to death when it saw people and ran away. The next evening I heard the farmers’ midnight rifle shots.

We are losing our wildlife because of deliberate actions by the city and county.  People in both places, regardless of politics, (livestock farmers excluded), routinely note how they highly value local wildlife when the Park Departments do surveys. Why aren’ these values reflected in our development plans? The county and city do not want to lose land that could provide revenue and they cater to the livestock farmers. That is why we all need to pick up our pens and send in letters or make virtual comments are hearings.   

 

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