Reported cougar sightings lead to precautions at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Refuge deputy project leader says precautions will be lifted Thursday if there are no additional reports of the predator

RIDGEFIELD — Largely precautionary moves by the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge to protect visitors after two unconfirmed cougar sightings will be lifted Thursday morning if there are no additional reports of the predator.

Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz

Refuge Deputy Project Leader Eric Anderson told ClarkCountyToday.com that the first possible sighting on Monday put the refuge on alert. A second reported possible sighting on Tuesday led the refuge to restrict the River S unit to vehicle travel only. Access was closed for a bathroom, viewing blind and the Kiwa Trail and auto tour as a precaution.

Anderson said the second potential sighting included a digital image that “turned out not to be a cougar.”

Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz

His best guess based on the grainy image was that it showed a racoon at a great distance.

Efforts to limit foot travel were largely precautionary, he said, with the safety of the public being of paramount importance. The scare came in the same week that a cougar attacked two bicyclists, killing one of them, east of Seattle.

“In my tenure here, we have not seen a cougar on the refuge, but clearly they are in the county,” said Anderson, noting the broad range of the animals and their known presence in southwest Washington.

Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz

Anderson said that with hundreds of visitors passing through the refuge on Wednesday, it’s unlikely a cougar would be present without being seen.

He anticipates lifting the precautionary closures Thursday.

“Honestly if we go the rest of the day with nothing … we’re probably just going to return to visitation as normal,” he said.

Those with questions can contact the Refuge Office at (360) 887-4106 during regular business hours, which are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
Signs posted throughout the River S unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge warn visitors of the possibility of a cougar in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Mike Schultz
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About The Author

Eric Schwartz arrives as a reporter at Clark County Today with nearly 15 years of experience as a journalist. He most recently served five years as editor of The Chronicle newspaper in Centralia. Prior to that, he was an assistant editor, reporter and intern at the newspaper. Schwartz graduated from Forks High School on the Olympic Peninsula before attending Centralia College and Eastern Washington University, where he was the editor-in-chief of the award-winning college newspaper, The Easterner, and received the Edmund J. Yarwood award as the top performer in his class. He covered sports through a fellowship at The Tri-City Herald before taking a full-time reporting job with The Chronicle in 2007. After three years as a reporter at The Chronicle, he traveled to Kalispell, MT, and worked as a crime, courts and emergency services reporter at The Daily Inter Lake, where he won two first-place awards for spot news coverage from the Montana Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2011, he returned to The Chronicle as the assistant editor before being promoted to editor in 2013. Under his leadership, The Chronicle was the recipient of several C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for Distinguished Reporting, and the newspaper was twice given the General Excellence Award as the top performer in its category by the Society of Professional Journalists. Schwartz has also been the recipient of two C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for his own reporting and has garnered additional individual awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Most recently, he and his staff were honored with a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for The Chronicle’s editorials and news coverage focused on transparency in county government.

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