Approximately half of Washington state is considered cougar habitat. The adaptable felines are able to survive in much of the state's forested regions outside the Columbia River basin.
Keep in mind that although cougars are physically capable of living in these places (based on geographical, vegetative and prey species characteristics), it does not mean they necessarily do. Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out cougars from any area. For more information about where cougar populations actually live, check out our Science tab.
The State of Washington encompasses approximately 71,342 square miles of land. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) states that cougars can be found in the forested regions of the state, which represent around 34,168 square miles. This habitat is distributed throughout much of Washington, except for a large expanse of the Columbia River basin.
With about 90,000 square kilometers of habitat (34,168 square miles), Washington's cougar population is currently somewhere around 1,500 animals and likely declining due to increased trophy hunting and habitat loss. This number is fairly close to what WDFW thought existed back in 1976 — at the end of the bounty period — when populations were considered tragically low and at serious risk. Despite four decades of 'protection' as a regulated game animal, these low numbers continue to signal the downward spiral of the species towards extirpation (extinction within a specific geographic region).