By Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic
Dan Parrott had only seen one cougar in 28 years of hunting, and wasn’t the first to see the one he ended up shooting last week. His hunting partner saw the cat first.
And then the two of them spent the next half-hour wondering if, perhaps, the young cougar was hunting them.
Parrott, a Bremerton resident, and Robert Hedrick of Naches were hiking back to their truck after a long day of deer hunting near Fife’s Ridge, north of State Route 410, when Hedrick began to get an eerie feeling.
“It felt like somebody was watching us. You know that feeling? I kept looking around,” Hedrick recalled.
On one of those glances back, he saw a cougar watching them. Hedrick shouted at it and threw some rocks in the cat’s direction, and it scurried away down the hill.
“I thought, OK, he’s gone,” Parrott said. “We started walking again and I heard a stick break, and we turned around, and it was closer — maybe 40 yards away, behind us and off the trail. We threw another rock, that chased it off, and we continued down the hill.”
Several minutes later, they saw the cat again off to one side, still keeping pace with them. Parrott thought the cat looked hungry and probably confused, just a young animal that hadn’t been on its own very long.
“For some reason, I didn’t put my rifle up to it or anything,” said Parrott, who routinely buys a cougar tag but had never used it. “Bob says, ‘You gonna shoot him?’ And I said, ‘Naah, I’m not to that stage where I’m gonna shoot him yet.'”
So they threw more rocks, chased it off again and agreed to keep their eyes out for its return.
Sure enough, the next time they saw the cougar, it was below them and coming up a ravine in their direction.
“We had chased it off three times, and the fourth time I was like, ‘Put some lead in that damn thing,'” Hedrick said. “When it started getting in front of us, I thought something’s goofy with this cat. I figured we hadn’t been seeing any deer over there, and maybe he’s just kind of on the hungry and seeing what we’re going to do. Or else he’s just looking for some company. Either way, I don’t want him next to me no more.”
So Parrott took aim at the approaching cougar and shot it.
The two hunters described the incident to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer Alan Baird at a game-check station at Crow Creek, adding to what had already been for Baird “kind of an unusual year.”
For one thing, Baird has already had to kill four cougars this year — one of them injured last winter when it ran in front of a snowplow, and the other three young cougars in trees in populated areas.
“In those situations, obviously lethal removal is kind of the last option,” Baird said. “But the drugs we use take a few minutes to take effect; it’s not instantaneous. And a cat with a needle stuck in its butt is going to be traveling.
But just as unusual for Baird was that on the same day he met Parrott and Hedrick, he met another hunter who killed a cougar not far from that same area.
“So in one day, two bag checks on cougars, that’s another rarity,” Baird said.