OLYMPIA, Wash. — Complying with a new state law, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has unveiled a new cougar sightings Web site this week.
Each cougar complaint will be detailed, even those that could not be verified by physical evidence and were more likely smaller bobcats, house cats or other animals, Fish and Wildlife spokesman Sean Carrell said.
The two most recent sightings were July 7 in Puyallup and July 5 in Mount Vernon, although neither was confirmed as a cougar. A July 3 incident, however, in which a horse was killed and another injured in Clarkston, Garfield County, was listed as a likely cougar attack.
To be considered a likely cougar sighting, the animal would need to be the size of a large dog, be longer than it is tall, and have a long tail, round face and coloring from tawny to yellowish to brown, said Donny Martorello, the state carnivore section manager.
He said sightings of cats that are a threat to people, pets or livestock are confirmed by physical evidence, such as tracks or the manner in which prey is killed.
The database can be searched by town or by property section, which usually covers a 36-square-mile area, Carrell said.
The new cougar reporting law took effect Sunday and requires that times, locations and all known details of cougar interactions be posted within 10 days of being reported to the wildlife department.
Carrell said the Washington cougar population is healthy. Problems occur where cougar and human habitat overlap, such as suburbs that border forest lands. A dramatic increase in complaints from 1995 to 2000 was turned around by educating homeowners, increasing hunting in problem areas and running a pilot project to capture and relocate cougars.
More than 160 cougar sightings have been reported to state game officials so far this year, Carrell said. That compares with 383 during 2004, 936 in 2000 and 247 in 1995.
Cougar sightings can be reported by calling the regional office of Fish & Wildlife. Phone numbers for the regional offices are available on the agency Web site or by calling (360) 902-2200.
On the Net:
Cougar database: http://wdfw.wa.gov/enf/danger/reporting