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Originally published September 2, 2009 at 12:10 AM | Page modified September 2, 2009 at 8:52 AM

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Cougar sightings reported in Seattle

Some Magnolia residents say a large cougar has been prowling the streets of Magnolia near Discovery Park.

Seattle Times staff reporter

If you see the cougar

Anyone seeing the cat is asked to the call the agency's Mill Creek office at 425-775-1311 or the Washington State Patrol or 911. Officials with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife say that once the cougar is found, they will attempt to trap and relocate it.

Some Magnolia residents say a large cougar has been prowling the streets of Magnolia near Discovery Park.

If true, it wouldn't be the first time one of the big cats has been seen in the neighborhood. One was captured there in 1981. Another was captured in a Ballard backyard in 1970.

A separate sighting was reported Tuesday near Woodland Park Zoo, according to KING-TV.

Recent sightings of a cougar in Magnolia have been reported on the Magnolia Voice blog and that's where Lori Jacobs read about it.

"I thought it was a joke and blew it off," Jacobs said.

But that changed early Tuesday morning.

She said she was driving home on West Bertona Street, between 35th and 36th avenues west, about 12:30 a.m. and had turned into the alley behind her house and that's when she saw a huge cougar two houses away, and it was walking toward her.

Worried about her cat, which was outside, she gunned her engine, turned her lights on bright and chased the cougar down the alley.

The big cat stopped, turned and looked at her. She rolled down her window and yelled at it. It flicked its tail and sauntered out of sight.

Jacobs reported her sighting to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Spokesman Craig Bartlett said only Jacobs reported a cougar sighting and unless it's confirmed, the agency won't get involved. He said cougars are very rare in the neighborhood.

State wildlife officials also received a report of a cougar sighting near Woodland Park Zoo on Tuesday, according to KING-TV. "We're alerting all of our local officers in King County," Capt. Bill Hebner, Fish and Wildlife agent told KING. "To make sure they have their capture equipment. And when we get a good sighting — a fresh sighting — we'll deploy those officers and attempt to capture it and relocate it."

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In 1981, a 90-pound, 2-year-old cougar was captured in Discovery Park. It was tranquilized and taken to a game farm in Tacoma. Officials believe the cat had been transported to the park or it would have been seen somewhere else in the city.

In 1970, a 117-pound cougar was tranquilized after it was found in the backyard of a Ballard home. It was taken to the Woodland Park Zoo, where it died.

On Sunday, Magnolia resident Thomas Olson was driving home near 34th Avenue West when he saw a cougar run into the road about 50 yards ahead of his vehicle, heading toward Discovery Park.

"I said, that's incredible, so I drove into the park and there it was again," he said.

"If I were someone who uses the park regularly, I'd think twice about going for a walk," said Olson. "I wouldn't have wanted to be out walking my dog that night."

Eventually, the cat jumped over a high fence into the Fort Lawton Cemetery, he said

Olson's wife, Connie, writing in the Magnolia Voice blog, said, "It is real and out there."

Jacobs said her sighting of the cougar has her frightened.

"There's no doubt this animal is dangerous," she said. "The fact it has been seen around here within a three-block radius of my house makes me very worried. How many people will have to call in before it's confirmed."

She's particularly worried that the cat has been seen within a half a block of a local elementary school.

She hopes the cougar can be captured and relocated; she doesn't want it killed.

According to the state wildlife department, cougars are the largest members of the cat family in North America. The state cougar population for the year 2008 was estimated to be 2,000 to 2,500 animals.

The department said wildlife offices throughout the state receive hundreds of calls a year regarding sightings, attacks on livestock and pets, and cougar-human confrontations.

"Our increasing human populations and decreasing cougar habitat may create more opportunities for such encounters," it said.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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