By Eric Stevick, Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — On the night of Oct. 8, Hoss and Lexi greeted their owners by running circles around their gravel driveway followed by their trademark sprint into a field.
Hoss, a 10-year-old red heeler, liked to lead the charge and quickly ducked out into the tall grass under darkness.
This time Hoss didn’t return.
Terry and Brandy Countryman knew immediately that something was wrong. Hoss always came loping back when they called his name.
After 10 minutes, they went to look for Hoss. They searched the pitch-black field for about 20 minutes.
At Terry’s command, a frightened Lexi led him to Hoss’ gutted carcass.
The 50-pound dog had been stripped of his flesh and fur from the back of his neck to his tail.
The Countymans never heard a thing, not a yelp; not a whimper.
The Countrymans called the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to report a cougar attack.
A neighbor whose home is a few hundred yards away spotted a cougar within a day of the attack. Another neighbor reported seeing a smaller bobcat in the area.
“I want to let people know that there’s a cougar or a bobcat or both in the area and to be aware,” Countryman said Wednesday.
Their neighborhood is off 123rd Street and north of Highway 92. It is near a stretch of the Centennial Trail north of Lake Stevens.
Neighbor JoAnne Bogart isn’t taking any chances with her two grandchildren.
She now tells the youngest: You cannot go outside and play without Grandma.
“You hate to scare them,” she added.
Washington state has a healthy cougar population. In 2008, there was estimated to be 2,000 to 2,500 animals, according to a Fish and Wildlife fact sheet.
Adult cougars typically prey on deer, elk, moose, mountain goats and wild sheep, with deer being the preferred and most common prey.
Wildlife offices throughout the state receive hundreds of calls a year reporting sightings, attacks on livestock and pets, and confrontations between cougars and humans. The confrontations are increasing as suburban sprawl claims more cougar habitat, officials say.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org
What to do
If you encounter a cougar:
Stop, stand tall and don’t run.
Pick up small children. Don’t run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.
Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens.
Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey but a potential danger.
If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.
Source: State Department of Fish and Wildlife