When Gordon Pruett woke up to his dog barking about 12:30 a.m. Friday, his first thought was that someone was trying to vandalize the boat he keeps stowed at the side of his house.
Having recently experienced some vandalism, he got up and investigated. He saw that his 7-year-old pit bull, Harley, was growling and jumping at a large maple tree in his backyard.
Getting closer, he pointed a light up into the tree and saw it: the reflective eyes and 3-foot long tail of a cougar that was no more than 15 feet away from him.
“It was looking right at me. I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” he said. “It was pretty intimidating.”
Pruett, 42, said he wasn’t scared. He hunts and has killed his fair share of wild animals, including a small bobcat that is now mounted on his wall.
“If it would have bit me, I would have tried biting it back,” he said.
Vancouver police responded to his house, 405 N.E. 117th Ave., in Vancouver’s Fircrest neighborhood, and had Pruett, his wife and their 9-year-old son evacuate. Police asked for Washington Fish and Wildlife to respond, and in the meantime, two officers trained their guns on the cat in case it jumped out of the tree.
Harley, however, kept the cougar in the tree until wildlife officials got there more than an hour later.
“He’s trained to guard the house and the family, and that’s what he did,” Pruett said. “He didn’t leave his post.”
Wildlife officials tranquilized and captured the older female cougar, weighing about 150 pounds, and later released her into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Skamania County.
“It was a little bit tense because it was in a neighborhood,” said Isabel Van Vladricken, Washington Fish and Wildlife officer.
Van Vladricken said she didn’t know why the wild cat was in the populated area in the first place.
“It’s puzzling,” she said. “She had to go through several neighborhoods.”
Van Vladricken said the cougar may be the same one that was spotted in the nearby Burnt Bridge Creek area at 3 a.m. Thursday.
“I would think she would head east,” but instead, the cat went south into the neighborhoods. “It was kind of strange.”
Now the wild animal is between 60 and 75 miles from where it was found.
“Hopefully she doesn’t find her way back,” she said.