A surprising start to the morning. A person living at a Richland retirement complex reported seeing a cougar near Leslie Road and Gage Boulevard. Just a couple miles from Columbia Center Mall. Mary Gant makes weekly stops to the senior complex near Albertson's. She was shocked to hear the report of a big cat stalking something yards from the front door.
"Well, I just was so surprised because it's an urban area and I mostly hear of cougars being more rural," said resident visitor Mary Gant.
The cougar was first seen by two different people in this brush near the complex in the Russian Olives between the senior center and the Villas on Gage. An hour later, the mountain lion was seen by a third person about a block east of that. Mary wasn't worried for her personal safety, she understands why others are.
"If I had a small animal or child, I'd probably be more cautious now," said Gant.
Police tell us only two residents from this independent living area actually saw the animal. The police themselves didn't see the cougar -- and say it was a challenge getting through the Russian Olive groves."
Linda Dorsey was there when police and fish and wildlife officials showed up. She didn't see the cougar, but says her neighbor did.
"She looked out and saw this animal out in the yard part and thought -- gee, that looked like an awful big dog or cat," said nearby resident Linda Dorsey.
Police called Badger Mountain Elementary to make them aware. But the animal wandered to the east and into the Leslie Canyon area. It was not found, but it sure provided quite a scare.
"it was just casually walking along. And then it stopped and stretched; raised its tail up over its back," added Dorsey.
An unusual site in a very busy part of town.
Police add they didn't see any paw prints in the grass. They expected the animal to continue wandering back into the wilderness.
This isn't the first time big cats have been spotted in south Richland. It's not even a first for Badger Mountain Elementary to be involved.
If you've been here a while you may remember when kids were sent home early back in December 2006.
Someone had reported seeing two bobcats.Police were never called and no animals were ever found.
More recently a home still under construction near the Mormon Temple was visited by an unwanted guest.Officers shot and killed the six-footer just two years ago. The cougar surprised the construction crews when they saw it stretched out in the basement nook. Officials decided the animal had to be killed because it was too risky to try to tranquilize it. If there was the possibility, it escaped in the process.
The sightings have been reported near the senior center, around the intersection of Leslie and Gage then headed east into the russian olives.