Experts warn hikers after new cougar sighting near Badger Mountain
BENTON COUNTY, Wash. — A cougar was spotted in Benton County this week, and after a recent deadly cougar attack near North Bend, Fish and Wildlife officers want to remind you to give the animals some space.
District Wildlife Biologist Jason Fidorra said rules that used to be considered common sense are being disregarded by the selfie-generation.
“A lot of people are trying to get photos [with] smart phones and they’re trying to get closer to the animal," Fidorra said. "If you want a better picture, get a better camera.”
He said staying away from wildlife is the best way to stay safe.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said cougars live all over Washington, wherever suitable shelter and food are found.
Benton County Sheriff's Deputies said one of their employees spotted a cougar crossing Interstate 82 early Monday morning.
It was running south toward Jacob's Rd. near milepost 98, not too far from a popular trail at Badger Mountain.
Kris Harding was hiking that same trail on Tuesday and told Action News she doesn't think there's too much danger.
“I think this one's just passing through but I’m glad people are aware of it,” she said.
Oscar Perdomo was also on the trail and said he wasn't worried either.
“I’m going to scream, as high as I can, and more than likely the cat will run away,” Perdono laughed.
Fidorra said if you see a cougar you should never run away.
Instead he said you need to pick up pets and children, make yourself look as big as possible, and slowly back away.
Don't stop to take a selfie.
“There's a kind of balance between how to go out and enjoy these places and these species in a way that's safe for you, and safe for wildlife," Fidorra said.
He said all wild animals prefer to have their space respected, and recommended staying at least 100-feet away so the animal doesn't feel threatened.
Perdomo said he's been hiking for years, even encountering wildcats in his native Honduras.
He said it's probably better for hikers and wildlife to avoid sneaking up on one like he and friends did, even if it was by accident.
As he was heading up the the trail, he wanted to share one more bit of advice.
"Be alert," he warned. "Don't start off listening to music or texting. Carry your phone, but don't use it. [Just] enjoy the beauty of creation, it just might save your life."
Fidorra said the rules for dealing with wildlife don't change too much between species, and recommended checking out this page before hiking around the Tri-Cities.
For more information Fidorra recommends visiting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
Precautions for Hikers
- Hike in groups and make enough noise to prevent surprising a cougar.
- Avoid hiking after dark.
- Keep small children close to the group, preferably in plain sight ahead of you.
- Do not approach dead animals, especially recently killed or partially covered deer and elk.
- Be aware of your surroundings, particularly when hiking in dense cover or when sitting, crouching, or lying down. Look for tracks, scratch posts, and partially covered droppings.