Neighbors nervous after cougar attacks horses north of Sedro-Woolley

A cougar attack July 22 left one horse dead and four others injured north of Sedro-Woolley, Washington.
A cougar attack July 22 left one horse dead and four others injured north of Sedro-Woolley, Washington. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A recent cougar attack that left one horse dead and four others injured has some neighbors in a community north of Sedro-Woolley uneasy about having children and pets outdoors.

A state Department of Fish & Wildlife officer responded to a call about 6 p.m. July 22 regarding a suspected cougar attack on horses near the intersection of Gripp and Mosier roads, about 2 miles north of Sedro-Woolley.

Fish & Wildlife officer Shawnn Vincent said it was apparent from examining scratches on the horses that a cougar had been present, although no witnesses saw the attack.

It was determined that the horse that died had a heart attack during the chase, Vincent said.

Cougar attacks are uncommon in Skagit County. The last reported incident was in January north of Bow at the base of Blanchard Mountain.

Sally Houghton, who lives about a half-mile from the site of the recent attack, said she was surprised to hear of the incident in an area she considers densely populated for a rural community.

“We’re not in the mountains,” she said.

Houghton said she will no longer allow her dogs to wander on her 40-acre property and wants her neighbors to also take precautions.

“People shouldn’t have their kids out playing in the yard when a whole herd of horses was attacked,” she said.

To avoid conflicts with cougars, Fish & Wildlife recommends not leaving children unattended outdoors, keeping pets inside at night, not feeding pets or wildlife outside, keeping livestock in secure pens, securing garbage to avoid attracting small animals that may be prey for cougars and keeping walkways well lit.

When there are conflicts with cougars, Fish & Wildlife tries to catch the animals in order to relocate or euthanize them depending on the behavior of the animal.

The agency urges those who feel threatened by a cougar, see a cougar chasing domestic animals or find evidence of a potential attack to call 911 and get a Fish & Wildlife officer on scene if possible.

In the Gripp and Mosier road incident, the resident was not home at the time of the attack – estimated to have occurred between 9 a.m. and noon – and therefore did not report it until several hours later, Vincent said.

“Usually when you get into a large incident like this with so many animals, like these horses, injured … putting (a cougar) down is something we would definitely consider,” he said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to track this cougar down.”

It’s likely the cougar has moved on to a less densely populated area and, like many predators this time of year, is pursuing young deer, Vincent said.

Vincent said the cougar attack on the horses is a reminder that animals such as cougars, coyotes, bobcats and bears live in the North Cascades and surrounding areas.

In the January incident, officers confirmed a cougar was the likely culprit in the death of a sheep, but the predator was not located, Vincent said.

Report wildlife

Call 911 to report emergency situations with dangerous wildlife. To file a non-emergency complaint about dangerous wildlife, call 1-877-933-9847. For more information, visit wdfw.wa.gov/living/cougars.html.