Friday, June 2, 2023


Cougar sightings spiked in the Pacific Northwest this summer

If you live or travel in the Pacific Northwest you may have noticed that cougars have been in the news this summer. A deadly attack in May near North Bend, Wash. A hiker dead in Oregon, likely killed by a cougar. In September, a girl near Inchelium, Wash., shot a cougar after the animal stalked her younger brother. On Monday, a big cat was spotted in a tree in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and eventually euthanized, reports The Lewiston Tribune.

All these sightings, incidents and attacks have left many wondering, why? One common-sense answer: There must be more cougars.

Experts disagree.

“Well, I’m not so sure there are that many (more) cougars,” Brian Kerston said.

People often assume that if “we’ve seen a spike in the number of reports” there must be more cougars, Kerston said. But research he’s done doesn’t support that claim.

Instead, what leads to cougar attacks, sightings and incidents has more to do with people and less to do with the animals.

That contradicts anecdotal evidence and statements by some wildlife managers. In a Tuesday Spokesman-Review article, Idaho Fish and Game biologist Jim Hayden said, “We’re seeing dispersal and seeing the range expansion of mountain lions in the West.”

So, what is actually going on? There isn’t one simple answer, but three things may point observers in the right direction.

First, the number of humans has increased dramatically. Washington’s population has essentially doubled since 1990. That expansion inevitably increases pressure on cougar habitat.

At the same time, more people are recreating outside. That means even if people don’t live in cougar habitat, they are heading into cougar habitat on the weekends.

“Washington is so interesting because we really are the tip of the spear,” Kerston said. “We have a full suite of large carnivores. We have cougars. We have black bears. We have wolves. We even have grizzlies.” The only other western states that can boast that kind of diversity are Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

But still, what about the increased number of sightings, attacks and complaints? Anecdotal evidence, while perhaps not scientifically valid, still counts for something. Especially if you’re the one being stalked by an apex predator.

Kerston doesn’t doubt that people have been reporting more cougar sightings. But he believes that has more to do with the human brain and less to do with the cats.


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RV Staff
4 years ago

OK. This 72-year-old is going to be silly. I think there are more “cougar” sightings than before because most of the good men our age are already taken. 😉 But seriously, I am very fortunate to own some beautiful mountain property which cougars, black bears and much other wildlife allow me to share with them. The wildlife is my first priority since it’s actually their home that I visit once in awhile. —Diane at

4 years ago
Reply to  RV Staff

I know. I saw the headline and got pretty excited. Then I realized the was just about big cats saying thanks in their own way to the voters of California, and I moved on.

RV Staff
4 years ago
Reply to  OnWeGo

😀 —Diane at

4 years ago

Seriously? Humans encroach into wildlife habitat and the solution is to kill the wildlife? Humans need to be prepared to encounter wildlife. Carry bear spray and don’t hike alone. The woman that was killed in Oregon was hiking alone and knew the dangers. If you want to be 100% safe, stay in town and take a walk in the park.

4 years ago

Agree. Voters in California, through the initiative process, prohibited the hunting of cougars. Now cats are attacking and killing mountain bikers in of all places Orange County. Cats have lost their fear of people.

Unfortunately emotional big city voters and not wildlife managers are now in charge of our wildlife, including large predators, and the unintended consequences are obvious.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bob Difley

Bob, thank you for the cool, fact-based and rational response.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem at all surprising that some folks’ immediate knee-jerk response is “kill baby kill”.

4 years ago

What a bunch of BS!
There are more cougars plain and simple since they outlawed the hunting of them with dogs.
The question is how many people die defore they change the law back?

4 years ago
Reply to  Steve

And your science degree is in…..?

Are you omniscient and just “know” that there are more cougars?

Try real science. It won’t puff up your anger, but you just might like it.

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