Despite the last confirmed cougar reports happening in early August, the mountain lion’s potential presence on the Island continues to dominate local chatter. And people are still claiming to have seen the animal — especially on Nextdoor, a social media site used to connect neighbors.
On Aug. 21, a resident claimed that something that looked like a part of a cougar’s tail was protruding from landscaping, near Southeast 74th Place. Both Mercer Island police and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the concerns.
But there was no evidence that a cougar had been there, said Commander Jeff Magnan of the Mercer Island Police Department.
And an Aug. 23 call, when a resident reported a large cat hunting something, and even heard it meow, police arrived and found raccoons in the trees and fresh deer tracks. Again, there were no signs of a cougar.
“We get something every few days,” Magnan said. “Someone heard something. Even during Obliteride someone thought they heard something in the bushes, in the woods… It could have been anything, yet everyone’s mind goes right to cougar.”
And outside of the confirmed reports of Aug. 5 and 6 — in which a cougar was caught on camera — there has been no evidence of a cougar on the Island.
On Aug. 20, during a council meeting, interim city manager Jessi Bon addressed cougar concerns and shared that she received an email that day from Fish and Wildlife.
“I’m not ready to say for sure that cougar is gone, (but) Fish and Wildlife did say they’re suspecting the cougar has moved on from Mercer Island,” Bon said. “I think we’ll give it a little more time to make sure.”
Concerns still persist, however. On Nextdoor cougar talks are ongoing and one resident even made a map with the addresses of confirmed and unconfirmed cougar sightings on Mercer Island.
There’s even a poll on naming the rarely seen animal. Most voted in favor of calling the cougar “Mrs. Robinson.”
Others have questioned why in Olympia, where unconfirmed cougar reports were made, Fish and Wildlife decided to set up an “attractant” to lure the animal in. It’s a combination of fish oil and cow’s blood, and would likely draw not only cougars, but also raccoons, dogs and cats, Magnan said. Cameras that shoot photos upon detecting movement also were put in place.
Magnan said the attractant was set up in Olympia to determine if the cougar was still in the area. He was told by Fish and Wildlife that the two scenarios of the two cities (Mercer Island and Olympia) are completely different. The tactic being used in Olympia would not work here.
On Sept. 3, Fish and Wildlife experts were set to speak about their cougar response during a city council special study session at 6:45 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting was broadcast live on the city council YouTube channel. (That meeting was held after the Reporter had gone to press.)
“My guess is … this thing is already gone,” Magnan said. “… However we will look at every report as being credible. We will look for evidence … and we’re going to keep looking into this until we know more or there’s enough space in between reports that we feel comfortable.”