Rare cougar attack outside Ferndale

By Steve Guntli

A cougar attacked and killed a dairy cow west of Ferndale. The cow was found early on April 11 on a dairy farm on Kickerville Road west of Lake Terrell. The cow had several distinct bite marks and most of its neck muscles eaten.

Brian Fairbanks with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) said the attack is very unusual for this part of the county.

“I’ve been with the department for 15 years, and this is only the second cougar attack on a domestic animal I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And for it to be on the west side of I-5 is even more exceptional.”

It is also unusual that the cougar apparently passed by a pen full of sheep at a nearby property in favor of the tougher dairy cow.

WDFW officials set up nonlethal spring-loaded traps and surveillance cameras around the perimeter of the dairy farm in case the cougar decides to strike again. So far the animal has not returned.

“Usually if the animal hasn’t come back within a week, it’s not going to,” Fairbanks said. “Cougars tend to hunt in very large areas, so I suspect that it’s moved on.”

According to the WDFW’s website, cougar attacks against people are extremely uncommon, and tend to only happen if people approach the animal when it is with its kittens or protecting a kill.

If you encounter a cougar in the wild, the best strategy is to stand tall and back away very slowly. Never run from the animal, since its first instinct is to chase, and don’t turn your back on it. If it displays aggressive behavior, make yourself appear large, make lots of noise and throw rocks until it backs down.

For more information on safety and how to report a cougar sighting, visit wdfw.wa.gov.

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