Washington's Hoh Mountains
Photo of lush Washington mountain forest with snow-capped mountains in background against clear sky.


Hound hunters continue to pressure government officials to allow the use of dogs to hunt lions.

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.

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  • The status of Puma concolor in Washington.

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  • Ecosystems and habitat in Washington.

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  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

Cougar Habitat and Population in Washington

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.

Map showing cougar habitat in large areas in the north and west of the state.

Click on map to enlarge.

Reports provided by WDFW and publications by leading cougar biologists indicate that Washington's cougar density is approximately 1.7 cougars per 100 square kilometers of habitat.

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).

Managing the Big Cats

08/27/13 Guest Commentary from Ann McCreary, Methow Valley News

In this reposting of a Methow Valley News article, journalist Ann McCreary discusses the latest cougar research in Washington and how it's reshaping management of this often misunderstood cat. Biologists are learning that killing more mountain lions can increase conflicts with people. The long-ignored social structure and territorial habits of lions are key factors. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are striving for a more science-based approached to creating lion policies in the state.

ON AIR: Gary Koehler on Applying Science to Attitudes

01/21/12 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

In this edition of ON AIR, MLF Volunteer Julie West interviews cougar biologist Gary Koehler about his experience with mountain lion and human populations in Washington. Koehler sheds light on the difficulty of applying scientific research about lion behavior to human attitudes and management.

Click here to open a new window and visit the agency's website...

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Commonly abbreviated as: WDFW

Jim Unsworth, Director

Main Office:
Natural Resources Building
1111 Washington St. SE
Olympia, WA 98501

Mailing Address:
600 Capitol Way N
Olympia, WA 98501-1091

Cougar and Bear Specialist
Richard Beausoleil
3515 State Highway 97A
Wenatchee, WA 98801

Please write to the director and express your concern for cougars in Washington.

Thank the Department when they take steps to protect our state's cougars. Politely ask for policy reform and more officer training when they fall short of expectations.