RICHLAND, Wash. -- Have you heard about a possible cougar roaming in Richland?
Park officials tell Action News they've received multiple reports this week.
KEPR found out how rare this is and why it may be happening now.
There are videos of cougar encounters from across the country.
You can find them all over the internet, a reminder for Tri-Citians to be aware as they venture outdoors.
"It made the hair on the back of my neck turn up for sure," said hiker Todd Matz.
Matz says he used to live on the west side and remembers the moment he saw cougar paw prints in his own tracks.
"And so then I kind of tried to hurry a little bit back to the truck and then I looked over in the woods and there was a cougar looking at me," said Matz.
Matz says from a hundred yards away he knew he had to act quickly.
"I put my hands up over my head and clapped real loud and stuff and it was gone as far as I know," said Matz.
Benton County Parks tells me since one report of a cougar sighting at Badger Mountain Park last weekend, multiple calls followed on possible sightings.
Officials say some residents reported seeing cougar tracks in their own backyard.
"But in general, it's a pretty rare sighting and we usually don't have any conflicts with them," said District Wildlife Biologist Jason Fidorra of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The department of wildlife says this harsh winter is impacting prey like deer, elk, and rabbits as they come down to lower ground looking for forage to eat but predators like cougars are tracking them down and eating well.
Here are safety tips from the Department of Fish and Wildlife if you run into a cougar.
If small children are with you, pick them up immediately.
Face the cougar and do your best to appear larger to the animal.
Shout, wave your arms, but never approach the cougar especially with food.
And if it attacks, fight back and try to stay on your feet.
"Basically try to convince it that you're not a prey item. You're something that it needs to be worried about," said Fidorra.
"Not going to slow me down. I'll just be a little more aware of my surroundings," said Matz.
Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife says there are an estimated 2,000 cougars statewide.
A majority of them in forested, mountainous areas.
If you spot a cougar, you're urged to call Benton County Parks.