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Mountain lion kitten’s captivity serves a purpose

WILDLIFE — A three-week-old mountain lion kitten orphaned in northeastern Washington is headed for a zoo, and that's not all bad, state Fish and Wildlife Department officials say.

 “Education is important at American Zoological Association-accredited zoos, which have on-site staff to teach visitors about the natural history of these critters,” said department cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil.

He said the kitten will be transported to ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which has a reputation for good, natural facilities and education.

The kitten found this week in the Kettle Falls area will join the other 32 cougar kittens from Washington that have been rescued over the past 12 years and placed to live out captive lives.

But think of it this way.   These mountain lions are in facilities in urban areas where they’re seen each year by a total of 17 million people.

“These are people who get a chance to learn something about a critter they’d never otherwise see,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane.

Dog that survived wolf attack mauled by cougar

PREDATORS — You may remember the story about Shelby, the dog that went with its owner to a committee hearing at the Washington Legislature last year (above) all scarred up after being attacked by a wolf as it slept on the porch of its Twisp-area home.

This week, Shelby is back in the news after being attacked again in its yard — this time by a mountain lion.

It's just the latest in this winter's spree of confrontations involving mountain lions in the Methow Valley.

Read on for the Wenatchee World story about Shelby that's been moved by the Associated Press.

Sickly cougar incident at Stehekin prompts social media blitz

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."

Some cougar hunting areas to close

HUNTING —  Cougar hunts in several areas of the state will close at dusk on Dec. 31 as harvest guidelines for the animals have been reached in those areas, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday.

Eight of the 49 cougar hunt areas will close, including Game Management Units (GMUs) 105, 117, 149, 154, 157, 162, 163, 328, 329, 335, 336, 340, 342, 346, 382, 388, 560, 574, and 578.

Those GMUs are in portions of Stevens, Pend Oreille, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Kittitas, Yakima, Klickitat, and Cowlitz counties.

This is the second year the department has managed cougar hunts under a plan approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2012, said Dave Ware, WDFW Game Division manager.

That plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas, said Ware. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where cougar harvest meets or exceeds guidelines, while continuing to allow for hunting opportunities elsewhere.

“The goal is to preserve a variety of cougar age classes in numerous areas throughout the state, particularly older animals which tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations,” Ware said.

Last year, hunters harvested 156 cougars statewide, up from 145 in 2011 and 108 in 2010. Ware said the number of cougars harvested this season is expected to be similar to last year.

Ware reminds hunters that during the late-season cougar hunt – Jan. 1 through March 31 – other areas of the state could close early. Before going afield, hunters should check WDFW’s website or call the cougar hunting hotline (866-364-4868) to check which areas of the state remain open.

Any additional closures will be posted on the website and hotline, both of which will be updated weekly.

Mountain lion kills wolf in rare documented event

PREDATORS — This kitty didn't run.

 Female mountain lion makes a meal of young wolf in W. Wyoming
Mountain lions lose their share of cubs to wolves.  The cats are generally programmed to climb a tree and avoid confrontations that could leave them injured.  But a female mountain lion with kittens recently killed a young wolf in western Wyoming. Because the cat was fixed with a tracking collar, scientists monitoring the mountain lion were able to document a rare event among predators.
— Jackson Hole New & Guide

Cougar report on Priest Lake’s Bartoo Island put to rest

WILDLIFE — Relax and enjoy yourself if you vist Bartoo Island at Priest Lake.  Rumors of a cougar roaming the island have been dispelled.   Here's the report just issued by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

On Monday, August 12, 2013, campers on Bartoo Island reported hearing and seeing what appeared to be  a mountain lion to the US Forest Service (USFS).  Bartoo Island, located on the Priest Lake Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNF), is one of seven islands on Priest Lake. The island consists of USFS campgrounds and privately owned land.

To ensure public safety, personnel from the IPNF partnered with Idaho Department of Fish and Game and responded to the report. The agencies coordinated with the Priest Lake Sportsman’s Association and volunteers to search the island early on the morning of August 14. The group used hounds to search for the mountain lion, but did not find any evidence that one had been on the island.

While no mountain lion was found, visitors to Bartoo Island are reminded that proper storage of food and beverages can reduce the likelihood of unwanted visitors to their campsites. A mandatory food storage order, covering the Priest Lake Ranger District, is in effect annually from April 1 through December 31. For more information on proper food storage, members of the public are encouraged to visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s food storage web site.

For more information, please contact the Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-2152 or visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Website Idaho Panhandle National Forests - Home.

Photo: Cougar in Spokane Valley resident’s backyard

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Residents in the 22000 block of East Morris Road snapped this shot of a cougar in their backyard around 7 this morning and emailed the photo to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Anyone out there up for a backyard campout sleepover tonight?

Video: Trail cam catches mountain lion fishing

WILDLIFE — Mountain lions are resourceful in living off the land.  As the Missoulian reports, a remote camera tended by a homeowner's association outside of Missoula captured footage of a cougar fishing… and then succeeding — near the Blackfoot River, as you'll see in these two short video sequences:

Cougar kittens evade coyotes at Elk Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Where's a good tree when you need it?

Two cougar kittens used their climbing skills and a wooden fence to evade five coyotes on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyo., as shown in a series of photos by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Outdoor Recreation Planner Lori Iverson.

Iverson witnessed a spectacular standoff between two juvenile mountain lions as the coyotes let the cats know they weren’t welcome in the area. The mountain lions sought safety on a buck and rail fence for over an hour while the coyotes lurked in the background.

Here, one of the coyotes has moved in closer. Notice the flattened positions of the mountain lions.

Click here to see the rest of Iverson's photos.

Mountain lions keep wildlife police busy

PREDATORS — Along with citizen complaints about moose, coyotes and other creatures, Washington Fish and Wildlife police were busy responding to a number of cougar-related issues last week. Here are just a few examples from the weekly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Spokane Region report:

— A cougar roamed Ione during daylight hours, with no fear of people or passing cars. The responding officer called a houndsman who dispatched the cougar, which was examined. It was extremely thing and appeared to be blind. The carcass is at WSU for necropsy.

—Another cougar was sighted near Tiger. The officer called in houndsmen who chased the cougar away from homes in the area. It appeared to be healthy.

— Two officers responded to a complaint and confirmed a cougar had killed a goat. Again a houndsman was called to assist with killing the cougar.

— A reported wolf attack on livestock guard dogs in Whitman County was more likely the work of a cougar, officers said. But the report was a week after the attacks and evidence was inconclusive

Here's the best one — poachers trying to get their cougar mounted as a trophy.

An officer making a routine check on the books of an area taxidermist's ledger grew suspicious of the entry by a man who brought in a large tom. The cougar had been shot in Columbia County in November. On a hunch, the officer wrote down the name of the hunter and decided to look into the details of his hunt.

He verified the cougar was harvested on the same day the cougar tag was bought. Two officers then contacted the subject and got a load of baloney for a while. The man held to his story that he was just a lucky guy to have bought his cougar tag and then shot a cougar just 20 minutes or so later!

But pretty the officers were chiseling away to the truth. The subject later confessed to killing the cougar before he bought his tag, using his friend’s rifle. The subject later stated his friend was paying for the taxidermy work on the cougar because he wanted the cougar in his house.

The officers smelled more problems.

The dug a little more and were able to learn that the original subject friend who shot the cougar without a tag — and he was from Oregon. So he got the original subject to go by a tag and illegally put it on the dead cougar.

The officers bagged a two-fer by pursuing this case.

Cougars may have bigger impact on elk than wolves

PREDATORS — While the war on wolves continues, mountain lions haven't been fasting.

Montana turns its focus to mountain lions in Bitterroot study

At midpoint of a three-year study of elk in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists were surprised to learn the role mountain lions have played in elk deaths, and they have begun a yearlong study of the big cats in the valley to learn more about that population. — Ravalli Republic

Rabbits, bears, cougars must be well-cooked, too

HUNTING — While we're on the subject of parasites and other buggers in the meat of the fish and game sportsmen might bring home from the field, here are a couple of subjects I did not cover in today's outdoors column:

Rabbits should be well-cooked before consumption to avoid tularemia. See details.

Bear and cougar meat should be well-cooked before consumption to avoid trichinosis. See details.

Trail cam scores mountain lions’ family portrait

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trail cams are opening our eyes to rarely seen intimate lives of reclusive animals.

There's no better example than the photo above of four cougars in Montana — likely a mother an her three adult-size offspring.

Drew Shearer, a Bitterroot Valley bowhunter, has been using a remote motion-detecting camera to scout for game in his hunting areas. Inadvertently, he's captured this photo and many other astonishing images of wildlife in the Sapphire Mountains that make even professional wildlife photographers lick their chops.

See the story and more photos from the Missoulian.

Dead moose near Harrison Lake prompts warning

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A fresh moose carcass was discovered TODAY along the Selkirk Crest’s popular Harrison Lake Trail prompting local Forest Service officials to issue a wildlife hazard warning.

No conflicts between humans and wildlife have been reported, but officials recommend that hikers choose another trail and avoid traveling within the vicinity of the carcass, which is likely to attract large carnivores.

The carcass is a half half mile from the trailhead and is likely to attract wildlife including predators such as grizzly bears and mountain lions.

It is unknown what caused the moose’s death, said Jason Kirchner of the Panhandle National Forests.

Info: Sandpoint Ranger District, (208) 263-5111.

Bambi meets cougzilla: trail cam shows real life of predator-prey

WILDLIFE — Trail cams offer maybe too much reality for some people who think all is peaceful among wildlife in the woods.

This series of trail cam photos documents the short amount of time between cute and dinner.

Bitterroot elk numbers up, despite wolves, cougars

HUNTING — An ambitious elk study in the East Fork of the Bitterroot River has documented an increase in elk calf survival.  Wolves have not been a significant factor this year, although mountain lions have taken a toll on the elk.

Craig Jourdonnais of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says he counted 56 elk calves per 100 cows during an aerial flight in July.

He said1976 was the last time elk calf numbers were that high.

The ratio between elk calves and cows at one point in recent years dropped into the teens.

An elk study has found that 17 elk calves have died since June, and of those six were killed by mountain lions and four by black bears. Two deaths were human related and it’s unclear how the other five died.

While biologists are encouraged, they warn there's a reason the study runs for three years.

“It was a screwy winter with not a lot of snow,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks research technician Ben Jimenez said in a story by the Ravalli Republic. “That’s why we do these studies for three years. … Who knows? Maybe this winter we’ll see a huge number of wolf kills.”

Montanans debate wolf controls, trapping

PREDATORS — Despite a long sport hunting seasons and lethal measures to control wolves bothering livestock, Montana's wolf population continued to grow in the past two years while big-game herds in many areas are taking a beating.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are holding meetings around the state before moving ahead with wolf management.  One of the proposals includes trapping, which proved to be effective in Idaho when authorized last year.

Perhaps the most surprising development:  The meeting that brought a wide range of public opinion together in Kalispell — was civil.

Read the story and update on the situation from the Flathead Beacon.

Tests confirm Ketchum pup is full-blooded wolf

WILDLIFE — Results just received from a DNA test confirm a pup picked up outside Ketchum on May 25 is a wild wolf, Idaho Fish and Game officials say.

Out of town campers picked up what they thought was a lost domestic puppy outside Ketchum and took it to a vet clinic in town. Officials thought the male puppy looked like it might be a wolf.

Idaho Fish and Game looked for a wolf pack near where the pup was found, hoping to return the lost pup. But they could find no fresh sign of a pack in the area.

Zoo Boise agreed to take the pup temporarily and to help Fish and Game find it a permanent home. Zoo officials are compiling a list of facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that would be suitable for the pup.

The pup is gaining weight and his health is improving.

NEVERTHELESS, officials say it is best to leave young animals in the wild alone.

In the case of the pup, it is possible that the pack was moving with the pups – perhaps from a den to a rendezvous site – and may have been disturbed by traffic on the road.

State focuses trapper on Methow wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has sped up plans to put radio collars on wolves in the Methow Valley after confirming last month the pack likely killed a calf – the first in the state to qualify for compensation.

Biologist Scott Becker has been stationed in Wenatchee and hired to work with wolves, according to the Wenatchee World. He’s begun efforts to trap the two known members of the Lookout Pack, said Eastern Region Director Steve Pozzanghera.

It’s the state’s first confirmed wolf pack in 70 years, and now deemed the first pack to have probably killed livestock in a May 19 attack on the Thurlow cattle ranch near Carlton.

Becker - formerly a wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - and another biologist stationed in Spokane will try to trap and radio collar animals from all five known packs in the state. That will allow biologists to follow the packs’ movements and track breeding.

The wolves will be released in the same location as captured, Pozzanghera said, adding the agency hopes to work with the Thurlows and other ranchers to prevent further problems.

Read on for more details from the Wenatchee World.

Cougars take bite out of Montana wolf research

PREDATORS — Why would a mountain lion want to mess with a wolf? 

That's what a Montana wildlife researcher is wondering as mountain lions take a toll on the radio-collared wolves she's trying to follow through the Bitterroot Mountains.

The risk of injury doesn't seem worth the benefit for an animal that can simply climb a tree and watch the wolf world pass buy. 

Here's the story from the Ravali Republic.

Cougar killed by wildlife police in tree above Tri-Cities home

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Washington Fish and Wildlife police killed this 120-pound cougar on May 2 after it moved into a Kennewick neighborhood and perched in the tree above a yard where three girls ages 4, 7 and 10 normally play.
Two schools are nearby.
Arrangements are  underway to donate the animal’s remains to Washington State University for biological research at the Tri-Cities campus, WDFW officials said.

Cougar’s rampage on llamas stumps wildlife experts

PREDATORS — Wildlife Services agents dispatched a 175-pound mountain lion near Helena, Mont., recently after the cat killed at least six llamas and left them uneaten.  Sport-killing behavior is rare for cougars, and officials don't have an easy answer.

Read the Helena Independent Record report

Update: Legislators inflict hunter discrimination on CA official

HUNTING — The flap continues in California over the Fish and Game Commission president who came to Idaho for a legally guided cougar hunt.

His home-state anti-hunting creeps are wailing for him to resign since cougars can't be hunted in California. Forty state legislators sent him a letter saying he should quit.

Do they send letters to residents who go to other states and enjoy things that are prohibited in California?  Can California officials go to Nevada and enjoy a casino?  Can they go to Montana and drive a rental car that doesn't have California pollution equipment?

Can they come to Eastern Washington and enjoy driving a highway without a traffic jam?

Read the latest on this state-endorsed hunter discrimination here.

See this story for comments from the Idaho outfitter who encouraged the cougar hunt.

Calif. game commission president getting ripped for cougar hunt

HUNTING — Californians love and protect their mountain lions, even though the state is among the few where cougars have attacked and killed people in the past 20 years.

But the president of the California Fish and Game Commission is getting pressure to resign after he booked a perfectly legal mountain lion hunt in Idaho and filled his tag.

The incident is highlighted in this Huckleberries post by Dave Oliveria.

Deer hunters reminded that cougars are fair game, too

HUNTING – Washington’s most popular deer-hunting season opens Saturday morning in Eastern Washington, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife has made a point to remind hunters that cougars also are fair game anywhere in the state.

Under this year’s rules, deer hunters with a valid cougar license and transport tag can take a cougar during the modern-firearms deer season in all 39 counties – including Okanogan, Chelan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Klickitat.

That’s a change from recent years, when general cougar-hunting seasons in those six counties were delayed to accommodate a pilot program that allowed hunters with special permits to track cougars using dogs.

“In those six counties, we’re back to relying on general hunts to manage cougar populations,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “We can make that work, but it does present some different management challenges.”

Ware said permit hunters using dogs generally took male cougars, while those who encounter cougar during general hunts – without dogs – are less likely to discriminate between the sexes. Under state law, it is illegal to kill spotted cougar kittens or adult cougars tending kittens.

Using dogs to hunt cougars was banned by a citizens’ initiative in 2006, but later allowed by the Legislature under a pilot program in counties reporting increasing conflicts with the big cats.

More than 100,000 hunters are expected to take to the field this month for the modern-firearms deer season that runs through various dates around the state. Cougar hunting is open through the end of the year, although few are taken outside of the major deer and elk hunting seasons, Ware said.

Bobcat on pins and needles when pursued by cougar

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An Arizona couple recently witnessed a wildlife spectacle outside their home hear Gold Canyon as a mountain lion launched an attack on a bobcat.

In a desperate escape along the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, the bobcat sprinted up a very tall and very stickery saguaro cactus. The mountain lion called off the chase at that point.

Curt Fonger tells the story and shares photos with an Arizona TV station.

The photographer seized the opportunity to capture photos of the bobcat on its perch. One of the photos from a distance gives a good perspective on the height of the cactus.   The bobcat just hunkered on the saguaro for hours until the coast was clear, and then departed, seemingly impervious to the sharp cactus spines.

Fonger said the only way he'll top that wildlife photography experience is if the mountain lion comes by and gives him a pose.


Cougar stalks men on Olympic Peninsula

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Two men kept their cool and successfully retreated from an aggressive cougar near Hoquiam, Wash., on Sunday.

According to a KING 5 report, Puget Sound salmon manager Steve Thiesfeld said the two men were completing a habitat survey on the Little Hoquiam River when they spotted the cougar following them, with ears back and hissing.
The two faced the animal, waved their arms and inched toward the road for about 20 minutes.
Theisfeld told reporters the cat came within striking distance several times before they made it to the roadway, where they climbed into their truck.

Conservationist posts thoughts on Washington cougar hunting bill

PREDATORSMitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest has concerns about hunting cougars.

Nevertheless, he was disappointed by the Washington Legislature's failure to pass a bill to extend a pilot program that has allowed the use of hounds for limited cougar hunting in Northeastern Washington.  The bill died on the vine last week despite bipartisan support.

On Friday, Friedman wrote his well thought-out reaction to the situation and where the state and people in northeastern Washington should go from here.

"Cougar hunting can’t not be controversial," Friedman said. "On one hand, they are gorgeous cats that, as apex predators, play critical roles in the balance of ecosystems, assuring that conservationists and animal lovers have strong feelings about them. On the other hand, this silent and powerful stalker gives people who live or raise livestock around them strong feelings of a different sort."

Cougar killed at Richland construction site

WILDLIFE — RIchland law enforcement officials on Friday killed a cougar after workers found the six-foot-long cat in the basement of a south Richland home that’s under construction.

Richland police said they were called at 9:15 a.m, according to the Tri-City Herald. An officer from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department also responded.

The home is in the framing stage and when workers arrived they discovered the cougar hiding in a basement nook, police said.

Because of the location, the number of people in the area, and other safety concerns, officers determined there was no other option but to shoot the cougar.

A similar incident occured earlier in the week in Wenatchee.

Winter hay lures deer — cougar, too

WILDLIFE — Mountain lions don't eat hay, but this veggie bar spready out near Chewelah this winter likely attracted plenty of deer. 

Cougars like an all-you-can eat buffet deal as much as anyone.

This photo is amon several snapped of cougars in February and March by a motion-activated camera about 45 miles north of Spokane.