Rural residents get rare up-close look at cougar

When Hannah, Luke, Seth and Grace Olney return to school in September they can share the information they learned about cougars with classmates.

A 140-pound, 3-year-old male cougar was treed, tranquilized and tagged near their Enumclaw-area home July 25.

“It was crazy,” 15-year-old Luke Olney said. “I’ve never seen one before and it was pretty big. It was in our driveway just walking.”

The young Olney isn’t the only one who hasn’t seen one, according to State Wildlife agent Bruce Richards, its rare for anyone to see a mountain lion up close.

The Olney family had heard there was a cougar near their home, not far from Westwood Elementary School.

The cougar was spotted and videotaped by Charlie Redmond in the late evening July 18.

About a week later, the Olney’s spied the cat about 4 p.m. and alerted neighbors and wildlife officials.

As they watched, the cougar scampered to Bill and Becky Harris yard, where Bill grabbed a shotgun and took watch.

“The neighbor and the cougar were about 20 yards away from each other just staring at each other,” Deanna Olney said. The standoff lasted about 20 minutes while they waited for wildlife officials.

A car drove up and the cougar ran off.

“We thought it was gone,” she said. “We all wanted him to find it, tranquilize it and relocate it so we could stop worrying about our kids playing outside, let alone our live stock.”

By the time Richards drove up, with tracking dogs in tow, the cougar had been spotted again at the neighbors.

Everyone was asked to stay still and quiet.

“The rest happened really fast,” they said.

The dogs found and treed the cat. Wildlife officials shot it with a tranquilizer and caught it in a net when it fell. The cat was tagged and his location will be monitored regularly thanks to a global positioning system.

The event was a learning experience for everyone.

“It was a really cool experience,” Luke Olney said. “We learned they are solitary animals. So his mother probably kicked him out and he was looking for his own area.”

“That’s what they do at that age,” Richards said, referring to the search to find his own turf, “Or they move their whole life.

“I knew it was very rare to see cougars,” Olney said.

“Very few make it to the age he made it,” Richards said. “The next two or three years will be tough for him. It’s a tough life for a mountain lion.”

“We all petted it and took pictures before he was hauled away,” Deanna Olney said. “Bruce is so good about teaching kids and letting them all feel and learn. It was an amazing experience.”