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.