When Jacque Nybo walked out of her house to investigate why her ducks were causing a ruckus, she didn’t expect to come face to face with a cougar.
Nybo, who lives west of Concrete, came across the cougar when it got into her turkey pen during the last week of December.
Over the past few weeks, several residents in east Skagit County have reported cougar sightings. Those who have pets and livestock are trying to figure out how to co-exist with the local wildlife.
Concrete Mayor Marla Reed said in an email that she had talked to four people who had seen a cougar in the area recently, three of which were within town limits.
Nybo, who had not encountered a cougar on her property before, found the animal with one of her turkeys, Thomas.
Yelling at the cougar, she drove it away, but not before it had killed the turkey.
Nybo tried to enclose the animals more securely, but the next night, the cougar came back and killed a second turkey.
Nybo set up a game camera to see if the cougar would return. The next few nights, it came back to eat the turkeys it had buried farther back on Nybo’s property.
Nybo said it’s a struggle finding a balance between giving pets the most freedom possible while also keeping them safe.
After the incident, Nybo penned up her livestock, which had previously been loose within a fenced area.
She said she’s sad about losing two of her turkeys, but knows she lives in an area that is dense with wildlife.
“I’m torn because I understand I’m living in the mountains, in the woods, and this is where (cougars) are,” Nybo said. “I’m an animal person and my animals are pretty important to me. It’s a tough situation.
“It was a beautiful creature I was looking at, you know, it was young,” Nybo said of the cougar. “But it killed something that I cared for.”
State Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Robert Waddell gave a talk about living with cougars on Jan. 23 at Concrete Town Hall.
He said that as more people move into areas with dense wildlife, there will be more incidents.
Waddell said people often don’t realize just how abundant the wildlife in the area is.
Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Chase Gunnell said cougar sightings are uncommon, but not always a cause for concern.
“Cougars are fairly common in eastern Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties,” Gunnell said. “Statewide cougar population levels in Washington are healthy. While cougars are often around us, they’re rarely seen.”
By keeping cats inside, not feeding deer, and penning up livestock, residents can help reduce conflict, said Waddell.
Wildlife incidents can be reported online to Fish and Wildlife.
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