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Dog on cougar's trail

A tracking dog will help locate a cougar that killed livestock in the Sequim area twice in the past three weeks said Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Phillip Henry on Monday.

The animal that killed seven lambs Nov. 11 at Maxine Secor's property at Silberhorn Road and Seventh Avenue almost certainly is the same one that killed eight lambs at Fred and Joanne Hatfield's Happy Valley farm on Oct. 25, he said.

"There's no way to know for sure but the probabilities are pretty good. Happy Valley and Silberhorn Road are only two or three miles apart. So there's a high probability that it's the same cat," he said.

It's also a cougar, not a bobcat, feral dog or other animal, Henry said.

"(Fish and Wildlife Officer) Brian Fairbanks said the attacks were from a cougar. He's been there for a number of years. If Brian says it is a cougar, he's probably darn right."

Henry said although there's no way to be sure, he would rather err on the side of public safety and kill a cougar that might or might not be the right one.

"What is my alternative?"

Henry said he's working to get hounds specifically trained for cougar tracking but they can't track in this wet weather.

In addition to the weather, using a tracking dog close to town is problematic because they don't want the dog getting shot at or run over while tracking, he said.

"Silberhorn Road is in town as far as I'm concerned. Tracking dogs have a tendency to run across the road when following a scent."

Henry said these recent attacks indicate that cougars in the area are becoming "suburbanized," knowing where to go for an easy meal of livestock instead of wildlife.

"It's not true that cougars are being pushed out of their habitat. The Sequim area has had no cougar populations for decades," he said.

More hunting restrictions and fewer hunters mean grazing animals are realizing they aren't in danger of being shot, so they move closer to populated areas, Henry said.

"It doesn't take an animal long to figure out where the safe spots are and then come the predators.

"(The predators) are becoming acclimated to the smell of humans and some lose

their fear of humans," he said.

If your livestock is attacked, it's crucial to give (Fish and Wildlife) that information as soon as possible so the animal can be tracked, Henry said.

It's also important to keep your livestock inside an enclosure at night, if possible, he said.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@sequimgazette.com.



The state Department of Fish and Wildlife responds to cougar and bear sightings that threaten public safety or property. If it is an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

If you experience a cougar or black bear problem and it is not an emergency, contact the regional Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Montesano (360-249-4628) between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.



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