Outdoors blog

Sickly cougar incident at Stehekin prompts social media blitz

Robert C. Nielsen of Stehekin, Wash., photographed this sickly mountain lion on his porch in February 2014. Eventually, Nielsen had to shoot and kill the cougar after efforts failed to chase it away. (Courtesy)
Robert C. Nielsen of Stehekin, Wash., photographed this sickly mountain lion on his porch in February 2014. Eventually, Nielsen had to shoot and kill the cougar after efforts failed to chase it away. (Courtesy)

WILDLIFE WATCHING -- The Wenatchee World story about a Stehekin homeowner who ended up having to shoot a sickly cougar acting aggressively on his porch has become the newspaper's most widely circulated story on social media.

A Facebook post that was originally put up by Robert C. Nielsen and reposted with permission by The Wenatchee World has been viewed more than 1.5 million times, with comments, likes and shares coming from around the world, the newspaper reports in a story picked up by the Associated Press.

Here's the rest of the AP version of the World story by Michelle McNiel explaining the incident and some of the reaction.

Nielsen, a resident of the remote community at the head of Lake Chelan, first posted pictures and a write-up about his encounter with the big cat last week. He said he got up to let his dog outside on the night of Feb. 10. Just after bringing his dog, Maya, back inside, he heard a thump at the door and saw a cougar jumping against the glass pane outside.

He wrote that the cougar was "all jumping up and down, snarling and growling and pawing to the very top of the glass . without exposed claws."

He got a gun and a camera, and then went upstairs and dropped a coffee cup on the cat’s head. "It didn’t flinch," he wrote.

He then fired two warning shots next to it. But it stayed. So he "switched weapons up a grade, in case it broke the window and came in," he said.

The cougar then left the door step and headed to Nielsen’s shop. He said he fired four more shots but, "It didn’t even look back."

Nielsen wrote that in his 34 years in Stehekin, he’s seen only four cougars - two sick ones and two healthy ones.

"It doesn’t take a loud noise to start a healthy cougar moving, most of the time," he said. "More like, you’d be lucky to see a healthy cougar, so fast do they disappear if surprised."

He didn’t see the cat anymore that night. But the next morning before heading to work, he went into his shop to get gloves.

"The shop door was left open to air out fumes," he wrote. "I rounded in, noticed briefly a new layer of mess on the floor, and was met by Little Miss Snarly Puss! She was hunkered down part way under a cabinet."

He continued that, "She did her best to eat through a tool bucket, destroying my knee pads, eating the rubber grip off a cordless tool, and generally not getting any satisfaction. Lots of growling and snarling going on in there while I backpedaled and slammed the door shut."

As he continued to work, he met two other Stehekin residents, who offered to kill the cat for him. After the cat was shot, they discovered that it was severely underweight, had many broken and lost teeth, and was covered in open sores on its body.

Nielsen’s story and photos have gone viral in the world of social media. In addition to the 1.5 million-plus visits, the post on The World Facebook page had 76,896 likes and was shared by 13,424 people.

One of the shares was to the social news and entertainment website, Reddit, where it had been viewed several hundred thousand times by Wednesday afternoon.

Comments ranged from astonishment about a cougar being in close proximity to people, to sympathy for the dead animal.

"Where the hell do you people live for cats like this to just show up on your doorstep," one person commented.

"As a New Zealander, this absolutely amazes me," wrote another. "The best I get is the neighbour’s cat looking like it wants a pat, and then freaking out as soon as I open the door."

One commenter wrote, "I live in Egypt. Worst I’ve ever seen is a cat-sized rat in Cairo."

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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