Normally cougars in Bellingham residential areas are only after deer, especially fawns. Our city is over-run with deer, to the degree that no successful garden is without a tall fence around it. And cougars go where there are deer. The southside of Bellingham is a very happy hunting ground for cougars.
But one cougar has been hanging out near the Fairhaven district for too long, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. In the past month or two, a pair of pet goats have been killed, as well as two sheep in the Edgemoor neighborhood, and last night a pet sheep in Happy Valley. The wildlife agent I talked with said there is no way to know if these non-deer kills are by the same cougar, but they might be. And he does not think the cougar was looking for non-deer prey - the big cat just happened upon it.
So today they have set a live trap - basically a huge Have-a-Heart trap, like folks use for trapping small pests. As bait they used last night’s sheep - quite dead. Now they will see if the cougar returns for a second meal tonight. If so, and it is caught, they will come and remove the cat in the morning.
All this is happening in my neighborhood, and a lot of southside folks know about these non-deer kills. And so this article is just to let everyone know that Fish and Wildlife are on this and hope to remove this cat from our area. Who knows? This could be the same cougar that was sighted just across I-5 and featured in our July article.
The wildlife agent has many years dealing with these cats. He says they are simply not the least interested in two legged animals - humans. They go where deer go. That point is very important. He explained that these cats can travel quite long distances to find a place they like.
Twenty years ago, deer sightings in Bellingham were rare and residents did not need to fence their gardens. And there were no cougars. But the tolerance we’ve shown to deer multiplying in our town caused one visiting friend to note that it seemed like India where they allow cows to wander anywhere. Creating this haven for deer has brought us cougars. Simple as that.
What will happen if the cougar is trapped tonight? The probability is that it will be put down. The only other option is to relocate it, but as the agent explained to me, that often causes a serious problem as cougars are territorial. Dropping a strange cougar into an area can be a quick death sentence in itself as they are often killed by other cougars. It seems there is no third option. And the decision is made higher up in the Fish and Wildlife department, and not by the agents in the field.
But with plentiful deer here, we can expect a new cougar to make its way into the southside. Hopefully, the next one will not hunt domestic animals and will stick with deer.
We have posted further developments at: Updates: Cougar Trapping ... Maybe