By Ann McCreary
A cougar snacked on a couple of organic ducks from Crown S Ranch on Twin Lakes Road Monday (Feb. 3) in the latest incident involving cougar predation in the Methow Valley.
Cal Treser, enforcement officer for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he received a call from Crown S Ranch owner Louis Sukovaty about 9:30 a.m. Monday, after Sukovaty realized a cougar had broken through netting around a duck pen.
One duck was eaten at the site and the cougar took the other into nearby trees to eat, Treser said.
Treser followed the cougar’s tracks from the ranch across Twin Lakes Road, through the Methow Valley School District campus and toward Winthrop. He said he tracked the cougar for about three hours until it was just outside the Winthrop town limits.
“It was about half a mile from Winthrop when I turned around,” Treser said. “I tried to keep it moving and push it out of the area and hope it doesn’t come back.”
Crown S Ranch raises organic beef, pork, lamb and poultry. “He [Sukovaty] has a real lunch counter there,” Treser said. “Just chasing the cougar doesn’t guarantee it won’t come back.”
Treser said he let school district officials know that there is a cougar in the area. “If they see it, have the kids come inside.” However, he added, he doesn’t believe it poses a threat to people.
“He’s not going to bother a bunch of kids playing,” Treser said. “I let them know, the same as if I had a bear in the area.”
Treser said he doesn’t intend to try to track and kill the cougar, but will chase it away again if necessary.
Last year a female cougar and three offspring were seen in the same area, Treser said. Rich Beausoleil, WDFW cougar and bear specialist, treed the mother and placed a radio collar on her. Based on radio transmissions, she is now known to be in the Poorman Creek area, and it appears there is one sub-adult cougar with her, Treser said.
“Two of the young are still unaccounted for,” but the cougar involved in the duck snatching Monday is likely one of them, Treser said.
Four cougars have been shot by state wildlife officials following attacks in recent weeks on pets and livestock. A fifth cougar was tracked and treed by wildlife officials using dogs, and subsequently shot by a hunter with a cougar tag.
Treser said he received four calls last week reporting cougar sightings and, in one instance, a suspected cougar attack on ducks at a Twisp River home. Treser investigated and determined that the ducks had fallen prey to an otter, not a cougar.
A cougar has been sighted several times in and around Winthrop. Residents of Studhorse Mountain have also reported seeing a cougar in that area, Treser said.
“These cougars will remain in the area, and it’s nothing uncommon,” Treser said.
“It’s frustrating,” Treser added, referring to the high number of cougar encounters and the resulting killing of the cats this winter.
“I like to see the cougars, people like to see the cougars, but we don’t like the problems. We have to do the best we can to protect our pets and livestock, and I’ll do the best I can to prevent predation,” Treser said.
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