WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — Heavily armed police and wildlife agents closed a street and warned residents to stay away Monday as they chased a young, underweight cougar through a Wenatchee neighborhood — eventually following it to a front yard, where they killed the animal to ensure it didn’t attack anyone.
“We’re not in the business of shooting wildlife, that’s for sure,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife cougar expert Rich Beausoleil told The Wenatchee World. “But with all these backyards and all these fences, we weren’t going to chance it.”
The cougar was about 7 months old and 30 pounds — 20 pounds less than a healthy one would have weighed. It was first spotted around 7 a.m. and prompted a number of double-takes and 911 calls from residents. Shane Breshears said he saw the cougar and warned his young daughter to stay inside as it crossed a street and cut into an alley.
“This thing would have taken me down,” he said.
Officials said a tranquilizer dart could have taken 10 minutes to take effect, and they weren’t risking it in case children in the area were out walking to school.
Beausoleil arrived with his 5-year-old Karelian bear dog, Cash, and tracked the cat to the end of an alley. They found it under the front porch of a home.
Police surrounded the home, and Capt. Kevin Dreskar signaled to a woman inside to open her window.
“It’s in my house?” she said. “Oh my God!”
When Beausoleil and Cash moved in, the cougar darted out and jumped a fence into another yard. Beausoleil, several police officers and state game warden Dan Klump ran after it as others rushed around the corner in their vehicles.
They found the cougar in front of Cornelia Martin’s house. Klump shot and killed the animal as neighbors watched from their front porches.
“Why did you need to kill it?” Martin asked, tearing up. “It was just a baby. I understand the danger, but still.”
Klump responded: “If it gets cornered, it’s fight or flight. It just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”