Following the Aug. 5 cougar report, in which the animal was spotted prowling in the vicinity of Pioneer Park and captured on security camera footage, there’s been a handful of calls from Islanders who also claim to have seen the mountain lion.
The next day someone reported the animal in the same area, near East Mercer Way, said Jeff Magnan with the Mercer Island Police Department. Two days later on Aug. 8, there was another report, but further south.
Then there were two reports on Aug. 9, from two different areas of Mercer Island.
Other residents reported hearing noises, like chirping and a lion screaming, Magnan said. Someone said their dog was going crazy in their backyard, and they thought it had to do with a cougar.
The latest cougar sighting report came in at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 12, in the 7600 block of West Mercer Way on the south end of the Island, according to the city of Mercer Island. No new reports have been received since that time.
“We’re keeping track of anything people tell us,” Magnan said. And pertinent information is forwarded on to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The police department even had officers, in teams of two, walking Pioneer Park in the evening and early morning, when cougars are known to be most active, to see if they could spot the elusive animal. They added signs to the park to warn residents of the animal sightings. But there’s been little evidence of any cougar.
Alan Myers of the WDFW Police said despite the reports, there has been no other “confirmed” sightings (to his knowledge) since the initial report which captured the animal on video footage.
“Every time a bear is seen, there’s a huge plethora of phone calls from people about bears and cougars under every rock and tree,” Myers said. “There are tons of false complaints typically. I’m not aware of any false complaints. It’s just the public gets real excited about information like this.”
He said a confirmed sighting is one in which tracks or scat is left behind. Sometimes the animal presence is confirmed with the use of dogs, or a photo or video can confirm the sighting. All others, he said, are unconfirmed.
However, WDFW officers are standing by, ready to pounce and support the Mercer Island police if necessary. And all sightings and concerns are taken seriously.
It’s still unknown how the animal made it to Mercer Island. Cougars are prolific swimmers and could travel via the highway. However, Myers said cougars on the Island are unlikely but not unheard of. The animal has large territories, spreading for hundreds of miles. They patrol their circuit as frequently as they want. Sometimes the cougar is seen, but most often they are not.
More encounters are likely to occur, Myers said. He notes an uptick in bear and cougar reports. The further east people push into wildlife spaces, the more of an increase in those complaints.
“Urban sprawl is an issue that causes people to have more encounters with animals of all sizes and species,” Myers said. “It’s something that is occurring and is a problem. It’s the price tag of urban sprawl.”
For those who encounter a cougar, Myers warns to never run. Cougars have a prey chase response similar to a house cat. Instead it’s best to stand your ground, get large and throw things if need be. Authorities should also be contacted.
“But understand, most wild animals want nothing to do with people,” Myers said. “Cougars are not actively hunting humans.”
For more information on cougars go online to http://bit.ly/2YFIesY.