LEAVENWORTH — A suspected cougar that killed at least five sheep in a pasture off Ski Hill Road has eluded searchers for nearly a week.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Dan Klump said the sheep were found mauled to death early Sunday in a fenced pasture along Ranger Road, just north of Leavenworth. Their injuries were consistent with a cougar attack, and a sixth sheep was missing altogether.
“Taking it out of the pen was very consistent with cougar-type activity,” Klump said.
The pasture owner’s fencing was well-proofed against canines, helping Klump to rule out dogs, coyotes or wolves. Late-night rainfall helped Klump determine the attacks probably happened between 1 a.m. and sunrise.
A nearby resident later reported seeing a cougar near the end of Ranger Road the day before the sheep were killed. Klump tried to recruit trackers with dogs to help locate the animal, but had no success. Live-trapping the animal was also ruled out, as the 90-degree heat would have made the bait meat turn foul.
Klump installed motion-controlled cameras nearby to watch for the predator’s return, but on Friday he said there have been no further sightings. He believes the cougar may have been young and chased out of the hills by a territorial older male.
“This cougar has been pushed out of its main range, and it’s been forced into an area and it’s not where it should be, and it knows that,” Klump said. “But it also knows that if it goes back into the mountains where it was raised, it will likely be killed by an older and dominant cat.”
Fish and Wildlife trapped and relocated one cougar from Leavenworth in January, and euthanized another in December. The first was found trapped in a rental home near downtown after entering through a door left ajar; the second pawed through garbage and apparently killed a small dog and two chickens near Chumstick Highway.
“I want people to always be aware,” Klump said. “It’s paramount to know that we live in bear and cougar habitat year-round.”