Cougar activity near Suquamish Elementary School has prompted officers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to set up a trap in hopes of catching and relocating the cat away from the residential area.
On Friday, Sept. 19 a message was sent out to parents of Suquamish Elementary students, notifying them of the recent sighting.
“Students are being kept inside the school for the remainder of the day,” the message read. “Fish and Wildlife will be at the vicinity of the siting [sic] and students who walk will be told to stay on main roadways and not take any trails.”
Again on Sept. 25, the school sent out another email to parents noting the need for extra precaution.
“We wanted to update you all on our wildlife friend who seems to be lingering longer than we had hoped,” the email to families read. ”Suquamish Fish, Wildlife and Game informed us today that the cougar has not left the area. They have asked us to remain vigilant and keep our eyes open. This goes for not only at school, but during our home hours as well.”
Two incidents in early June were also reported to the Department of Fish and Wildlife involving cougar activity in Kitsap County. WDFW’s online Dangerous Wildlife Reports page shows an instance of a “public works employee at a work zone reporting a large cougar walked through their work zone with an animal in its mouth.” Another incident near Poulsbo relates an officer responding to reports of an attack on a horse and determining the wounds were indeed consistent with a big cat attack.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Ken Balazs serves both Kitsap and Pierce counties. Balazs said that given the sighting’s proximity to the school, WDFW would be taking extra precautions to attempt to relocate the animal.
“We typically don’t set a trap just based on sightings because it’s just an animal living in its habitat and that happens all over the place up here in these greenbelts,” Balazs said. “But since this one was close to the school, we are actually — I think today — setting up a trap.”
“If it’s a mature animal, they typically don’t stick around in one area very long. Females have a range of 50 – 60 miles. It’s highly unlikely it’s just hanging out at the school there, so I’m not too concerned about that; but we’re taking it pretty seriously and we just want to make sure that we keep the community safe up there,” Balazs added.
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org