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North Kitsap's a 'hotspot' for cougar activity

POULSBO — Cougar sightings are common during summer months in North Kitsap, and there are several steps residents can take to deter the animals, game officials say.

"It's the time of year people are out more. The cougars are always out," said Sgt. Ted Jackson, of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. A few sightings are typically reported in the area every week, though the animals are usually just passing through, he said.

Fish and Wildlife has received two unconfirmed reports of cougars in Kitsap in the past month, said Fish and Wildlife public affairs officer Craig Bartlett. One sighting was reported from the Shore Drive area of Indianola, the other near Lakeway Road in Port Orchard.

In a neighborhood near Foss Road a resident posted a warning sign to alert other neighbors of a possible cougar in the area earlier this month.

In an email to the Herald, Bartlett wrote North Kitsap is a "hotspot" for cougar activity, though the number of sightings varies each year. Sightings increase state-wide in the summer as young cougars learn to fend for themselves, he wrote. Younger cougars, called yearlings, often haven't learned to stay out of sight.

The Washington State Patrol deals with an increasing amount of roadway collisions with other types of wildlife, including deer, raccoon and the occasional bear, in summer months, said State Patrol Trooper Krista Hedstrom. A young bear died after being struck by a vehicle on Highway 104 last week, and last month, a woman suffered critical injuries after a vehicle she was riding in hit a deer on Highway 16 near Ollala.

"Every year around this time we start to get a lot more calls than normal," Hedstrom said.

Last month, Fish and Wildlife officers captured a black bear in Kingston after numerous reports of bears in the area.

Jackson said residents who believe a cougar is posing a threat to their livestock or neighborhood should contact the department. Officers typically track and capture the animals.

Cougars are the largest members of the cat family in North America, and typically range in weight from 100-180 pounds, depending on gender. They are most active during twilight and early morning hours, and there are roughly 2,000 of them in the state, according to Fish and Wildlife.

For those who live near cougar territory, the department recommends the following:

• Don’t leave small children unattended.

• Light all walkways after dark and avoid landscaping with plants that deer prefer to eat. Shrubs and trees around kids’ play areas should be pruned up several feet to prevent cougars from hiding behind them.

• Don’t feed wildlife, such as deer, raccoons, feral cats and other small mammals.

• Close off open spaces under structures. Areas beneath porches and decks can provide shelter for prey animals.

• Feed domesticated dogs and cats indoors, and keep them inside, especially from dusk to dawn. Keep outdoor livestock and small animals confined in secure pens.

• Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.

In an encounter with a cougar, the department encourages people to face the animals, speak firmly and slowly back away, while also trying to appear as large as possible. Learn more about cougars and what other tips Fish and Wildlife suggests for those living near them at wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/cougars.htm.

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