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.
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.”
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.
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.