With colder temperatures and animals on the move in search of food, a cougar's fatal attack on a pet dog last week may serve as a wake-up call for area residents.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 28, a young cougar attacked and killed a dog near the intersection of El Camino Real and NW Lincoln Street in White Salmon.
The dog's owner, Nanette Stevenson, witnessed the attack on her miniature/toy poodle mix. She said it happened on Nov. 28 at about 11 a.m.
"I was putting up Christmas lights outside, and I heard my dog yelp like it was hurt," Stevenson explained. "I followed the yelp, and saw a cougar with my dog, `Todo.' The cougar didn't even look up. It devoured my dog."
Stevenson said the cat was not very large.
"I think it was a female or young. It was not a tom -- they can be 200 pounds," she said.
Stevenson said her pet weighed about 15 pounds.
"It was really difficult and painful to hear her yelping for help," she said.
According to Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending, the cougar was "fairly young," and wildlife officials believe the one that killed the dog weighed approximately 60 pounds.
Officials from the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife responded to the scene. A hound was brought in to track the big cat, but didn't find anything.
Stevenson said a local hunter also came out that afternoon and tried to locate the cougar.
"At about 4 p.m. that day, a hunter found the cat below our house in a hollowed out log. He shot at it, but it ran uphill," Stevenson said.
The hunter, Izak Riley of White Salmon, said he explored the area and spotted the cat. He shot at the animal, and believes he hit it.
"I'm sure it's dead somewhere, but that isn't the only cougar in the area," Riley said. "As winter comes in, people need to be aware of the danger, as these cats are looking for food. Children are at risk, as well as household pets."
Stevenson said it was not the first time she had seen a cougar in the neighborhood.
"About a year ago, I saw one running up Lincoln Street, up the middle of the road, and then it veered off into the woods," she said. "But I didn't report it."
Jim Hulbert, who lives on El Camino Real, said cougars are active in the area.
"The animals are definitely still around," Hulbert said, adding that people with outbuildings should be especially careful.
"Cougars will hole up in an old garage or shed in someone's backyard for shelter when they can get in," he explained. "There's no reason to panic, but be aware of that."
Hulbert said he believes one reason the cougars are more prevalent around White Salmon could be due to the increased deer population.
"There are so many deer around this area, it's a naturally good place for them to come and get a meal," he pointed out.
Dale Palmer, superintendent of the White Salmon School District, said he has heard from several concerned parents about the potential for an attack on a child. To help raise awareness, Palmer said he plans to send information about cougars home with every student attending Whitson Elementary School and Henkle Middle School.
"We have to protect the kids any way we can," Palmer said. "We want to raise safety awareness around wild animals, and cougars in particular."
Palmer noted that one key thing to remember is not to run from a cougar.
"Cougars are like a house cat. They prey on things running. Stay put and make yourself look big; spread your arms or open your coat," Palmer said.
Stevenson said she hoped people would be alert and take precautions.
"This is pretty close to town," she said. "I'd definitely be worried if I was alone walking in the woods. People run on these trails and bicycle, or their dogs might be running around. Just watch out for your pets."