For the time being, Lynn Nichols is taking a gun with her while she walks her dog.
And she has a good reason. Within the past week, two of her neighbors have had run-ins with what they believe is a cougar.
Nichols lives on Northeast 309th Avenue, on the east side of Livingston Mountain east of Vancouver.
In the early morning hours of Thursday, March 19, a neighbor’s 80-pound dog was killed.
“At the time, we weren’t sure if it was bear or cougar,” she said. Every spring, Nichols says she sees a bear in the wooded area near her house, but that she hasn’t had a bad experience with it.
The next day, however, her husband walked the nearby trail and found paw prints, Nichols said. They sent a photo of the print to a friend who hunts cougar for sport. He said the cat could weigh as much as 100 pounds.
The residents eventually notified the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, but they delayed about a day, said agency spokesman Craig Bartlett.
“By then, it’s too late to get dogs on the (cougar’s) track,” he said. “We’re just advising the folks in that small gated community to give us a call if they see it again. We’ll try to get out there as quickly as we can.”
Bartlett said the descriptions that the residents have provided matches that of a cougar.
After a few days had passed, Nichols and other residents didn’t have another run in. “We had hoped he had moved on,” she said.
But on Wednesday, a man who was painting a different neighbor’s house stepped outside and spotted a large cat in the woods.
“We thought, ‘Uh oh. He’s still around,’ ” Nichols said. Now, she said, “we’re all walking around on pins and needles and packing guns with us.”
To reach a Fish and Wildlife officer during business hours, call 360-902-2936. If a cougar is spotted on nights or weekends, Bartlett said to call 911 and state patrol will dispatch a Fish and Wildlife officer.
Tips for what to do if you spot a cougar can be found at Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; firstname.lastname@example.org.