Cougar spotted at Discovery Park

Over the holidays, a number of people reported sightings of a cougar in Magnolia and Discovery Park.

According to Friends of Discovery Park, the cougar was spotted in the park and the surrounding neighborhood over the past couple of weeks. “Please be cautious when visiting the park; especially when running, with small children or pets (keep dogs on leash),” the group wrote on social media.

Friends of Discovery Park President Philip Vogelzang told My Ballard that one of the sightings was near Emerson Avenue last week. “So far, there have been no other sightings. Presumably, it has moved out of the area,” he said.

Cougar sightings in Seattle are rare—the last time a cougar was reported in Discovery Park was over a decade ago. In 2009, the Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully tranquilized and relocated a mountain lion from the park back into the wilderness.

Friends of Discovery Park say the park closed down for four days in 1981 after a cougar settled into the park—it became somewhat famous as the “DB Cougar” and was even the subject of a children’s book by Seattle writer Virginia Bishop Tawresey.

If you happen to see a cougar, remember these tips from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

  • Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
  • Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.
  • Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it (e.g., step up onto a rock or stump). If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.
  • Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
  • Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.
  • If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
  • If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing—even bare hands. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake. Pepper spray in the cougar’s face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.