Safety Advice for Living and Recreating in Cougar Country

On Saturday, May 19th, two recreationalists riding mountain bikes were attacked by a young, emaciated cougar near North Bend, Washington. Tragically, one of the riders did not survive the attack. Since that event, Western Wildlife Outreach has received a number of inquiries and comments from individuals expressing fear for their own safety in the event of encountering a cougar, also called mountain lion or puma, in the wild.  As a result of this singularly rare fatal event and the strong response received, Western Wildlife Outreach, in consultation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, has made some revisions to the safety advice we provide for those visiting and recreating in areas where cougars may be present. Cougars are normally shy, elusive, and rarely observed. But as Washington’s human population grows, and more and more people are recreating outdoors, the chance of observing or encountering cougars may increase. Following the steps outlined below will help ensure your safety should you encounter a cougar.  Being a good steward at home and in the wild will help keep humans and their animals,  as well as cougars, safe.

Cougar Safety Tips

The sighting of a cougar does not mean that the cougar poses a threat to human safety. Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare. Cougars are secretive and shy, and usually avoid contact with people, although they may hunt and cache deer in areas inhabited by humans.

If You Encounter a Cougar

  • Never approach the cougar or offer it food.
  • Stay together in one group.
  • Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly and hold your ground . Always leave the animal an escape route.
  • Move slowly. Running or other rapid movements may trigger 
an attack.
  • Try to appear larger than the cougar. If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.
  • If the cougar does not leave the area, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack) at the animal.
  • If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and stay on your feet. Spraying bear spray (EPA approved) in the cougar’s face is also effective. Keep bear spray accessible and review directions on its use. It has been shown to be effective against cougars. (you can watch a video on proper use of bear spray here.)
  • Cougar kittens can look similar to domestic cats. 
Always give a cougar or cougar kittens a very wide berth.

Hiking, Camping and Recreating

  • Carry bear spray whenever you recreate outdoors, and keep it accessible. Most brands of bear spray are sold with holsters for accessibility.  Never store bear spray in a backpack.
  • Hike in small groups and keep children close to the group.
  • Make enough noise to avoid surprising wildlife, especially at bends in the trail. Whistles work well.
  • Do not approach dead animals, especially deer or elk; they could be cougar prey left for a later meal.
  • Keep your camp clean and store food and garbage in double plastic bags away from sleeping areas.

Mountain Biking

  • Always ride with a partner or in a small group, never alone.
  • Use a bell or make noise as you go along the trail.


  • Avoid running in cougar country alone, if at all, but especially not at dawn, dusk or after dark.
  • Avoid running with headphones or ear buds that can block out sounds around you.
  • Make noise as you go along trails.

 Home, Pet, and Livestock Safety in Cougar Country

If you live where there are abundant deer, chances are good that you also have cougars living nearby. Cougars have large home ranges, and if sighted are likely just passing through.  Its wise to take precautions to avoid conflicts.

Home Safety

  • Don’t feed deer, feral cats, or other wildlife which can attract cougars.
  • Landscape around your home for safety.
  • Do not landscape with plants that are palatable to deer. Deer can attract cougars to your yard.
  • Prune shrubs and trees around the base to keep cougars from using them as hiding spots.
  • Install lighting to illuminate walkways at night.
  • Seal off open spaces under buildings and porches to prevent use as shelter.
  • Make food, water, or shelter unavailable at all times.
  • Cougars use natural areas to move through populated areas into more remote habitat. If food, water, and shelter are not available cougars generally move on more quickly.
  • Keep garbage cans tightly sealed and compost secured.
  • Supervise small children outdoors especially during the hours around dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.

Pet Safety

  • Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially after dusk and before dawn, to prevent them from becoming prey for cougars and other carnivores.
  • Keep pet food indoors. If you feed animals outside, gather up the food and water bowls and clean up spilled food so as not to attract wild animals.
  • If you must keep pets outside, consider installing a cougar-resistant fence or kennel.

Livestock Safety

  • Whenever possible, confine livestock and other domestic animals in secured and covered enclosures or barns, especially goats, sheep, and chickens.
  • Consider using a livestock guard animal. Even small-scale hobby farmers should consider the use of a livestock guardian animal to deter predators like cougars. Many ranchers and livestock owners use special breeds of dogs that are well suited for protecting livestock, and some are bred to be more social for situations close to home.
  • Install an electric fence around areas where livestock or domestic animals are kept.

Find cougar and bear safety videos here

Deterring Cougars

Deterring Cougars

by RDean, Humboldt County, California

It was that kind of moment, one that left us shocked and stunned into a state of questioning our own sanity. Over almost 40 years of living in our cabin-like little-house on the edge of the Redwood forest in far-north coastal California, we had dismissed occasional accounts of cougar sightings as very possibly “someone had smoked a little too much of something that maybe they shouldn’t have.”

We had worked and played in the woods on almost a daily basis without seeing any sign yet, in less than a heartbeat, a cougar had stolen our old housecat, Little Boy, off our front porch one cold January evening–right in front of our eyes–and disappeared into the dark of night so quickly we could do nothing. Flashlight and shotgun in hand, I followed into the night, blasting away at old growth redwood stumps in the backyard to let the big cat know it had crossed the line of our tolerance. I could empathize with challenges of living the life of a predator, but when they preyed on me and mine–I could become a predator, too.

We were sad and angry for a time, but my wife (a Japanese Buddhist) came to view the incident as Karma that had finally caught up with our beloved old house cat for all the little rodents he had dispatched in a similar manner over his 23 year lifetime. We still had two other members of the family, house cats, who needed protection lest the cougar returned to try a repeat performance.

Deterring wildlife predators from poaching domestic stock and pets was not a new issue, so I reached out to farmers and ranchers for their knowledge of what measures had proved effective in their experience. One very savvy old rancher recommended we get a mule. “Mules hate cats, and will kick ‘em into next week given half a chance,” says he. Adopting and responsibly caring for a mule had its own complications, so I kept looking. It seemed like most resources agreed on a few measures that were at least helpful:

First, you CANNOT keep predators out of a protected perimeter if you entice their prey inside that perimeter by feeding your pets outdoors, having open compost piles, or allowing DEER to forage in your yard!

Learn to think like a predator. They have senses that are exponentially better than ours, and predators will accept your open invitations to dinner without your awareness. When you treat opossums and raccoons to snacks, you are also gathering them up as delectable snacks for the upper end of the food chain. Do the little critters a favor—do NOT make them dependent on you for food.

Second, BRIGHT LIGHTS and SOUND help deter wildlife.

On various outbuildings we mounted motion-sensor floodlights and also wired an old flea-market radio into their circuits. When a floodlight goes on, so does the radio. We tuned the radio to a strong 24-hour station. Sound doesn’t have to be loud to be effective. We mounted the lights lower than normal to shine more directly into an approaching critter’s eyes. We set the lights to their “TEST” setting, so the lights and the radio come on for 10 seconds, and then go off. The lights and sounds stop critters in their tracks, and makes their night-vision temporarily useless. The moment the animals make another move, another cycle of blinding light and mysterious sound hammers them. Nearby resident critters, such as foxes, will eventually figure out this puzzle, and come up with a “work around” solution, but big cats, and even resident bears who are just passing thru the area, will say “screw it,” and wander on down the trail for easier pickings.

Third, as backup for the above, we use MOTION-SENSOR rain-bird type SPRINKLERS that come on for a few seconds when triggered. These work really well for scaring off deer. Wandering wild dogs, however, will attack and destroy the sprinklers if they are at, or near, ground level.

And finally, GAME / TRAIL CAMERAS have given us valuable information about when and where predators and prey come and go. Cameras have removed a lot of the mystery and apprehension, and replaced them with appreciation and empathy for the obligatory lifestyle of these (dare I say it) totally AWESOME critters.

We feel honored to share the local forest with cougars and continue our quest to find more and better ways to coexist with them.

The Secret Life of Mountain Lions

The Secret Life of Mountain Lions from Secret Life of Mountain Lions on Vimeo.

The Secret Life of Mountain Lions ​provides a rare glimpse into the family and social bonds of mountain lions. It affirms their rightful place ​in nature and the importance of ​protecting them ​for generations to come. Narrated by Chris Morgan (PBS, BBC, National Geographic), this video contains extraordinary ​footage captured with ​motion-triggered cameras from Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project.

What John Belushi Didn’t Teach Us About Mountain Lions

by Dr. Jordan Schaul, First published in Huffington Post January 5, 2016. Reprinted with the author’s permission.

What may be comical, perhaps endearing and speaks to the elusive nature of the cougar (AKA mountain lion) is one of my earliest visuals of North America’s largest cat. Outside of a visit to a zoo, I recall first seeing a mountain lion in the critically acclaimed movie Continental Divide starring John Belushi. I was only eight when the Spielberg-produced comedy was released, but it served as an early and remarkable introduction for me in regard to the largest non-pantherine cat in the world and one of North America’s most iconic large predators.

Although I don’t remember the plot particularly well, I vividly remember the specific scene where human meets cougar. Unfortunately, the cinematic treatment of the run-in with the big cat not only left a lasting and erroneous impression on me, and likely my contemporaries, but it probably created many misperceptions of the big cat for a wide audience. With that said, I remember that it was a very entertaining feature film.

In the superbly directed or at least well-edited scene, a cougar wanders unceremoniously and unannounced into a cabin to the dismay of Belushi’s character and proceeds to shred him after the two exchange a few pleasantries. As a naïve and intensely urbanized cub scout with an already skewed perception of large predators and their habitat preferences, I was convinced from watching the film that cougars were common, bold and cavalier around people and commonly seen. I also gathered from the movie that these wild cats were strongly associated with rugged terrain. They do like rugged landscapes because they can seek refuge in such habitat, but before they were intensely hunted they were commonly found in a diversity of wild places, which supported ungulate prey species. Today, cougars have a restricted range in North America, having been extirpated from the Midwestern and Eastern states. But they have the most extensive north-south distribution of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere and may be recolonizing former range states in the US.

Cougars occur in range of habitats, provided there is ample vegetative cover or rocky outcrops that provide refuge. Within temperate zones of North America and tropical and subtropical rainforests of Central and South America, the cougar inhabits a diversity of landscapes. They are not simply residents of the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems.

These big cats are most closely related to the cheetah and the jaguarundi, a small wild cat species with a historic range in the Southwestern United States. Although male cougars can attain weights of 140 lbs they are considered by biologists to be small cats in a big cat body. They don’t roar, but they can purr and they are quite agile and capable of jumping to considerable heights.

Although cougars can live in proximity to humans, they are exceedingly fearful of people and often retreat before a person can catch a glimpse of their presence. They typically avoid open habitats and human modified environments. A common myth is that cougars jump out of trees or off cliff ledges to attack prey. They do ambush unsuspecting animals from behind cover, but they only jump to lower elevations to build up momentum when in pursuit of prey.

Cougar-related human fatalities are far fewer than dog-related human fatalities, but perception is everything and people still perceive cougars to be dangerous to humans, pets and livestock. In North America they prey predominantly on large ungulates. Cervids (i.e. moose, elk and deer) are a mainstay and bison really represent the only exception in terms of potential prey that they won’t consider. As generalists, mountain lions forage on a very wide range of species including many large and small mammals and birds. In fact, six smaller cat species, including Canada lynx and bobcat have been reported as prey items across the mountain lion’s entire geographic range.

Although a regulated game animal in Washington State, trophy hunting has placed significant pressure on cougars and the population trend is likely in decline, at least in the Eastern part of the state. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates, there may be as many as 2500 cougars in Washington State, although it is not possible to know real population numbers for sure.

According to Lorna Smith, the Executive Director of Western Wildlife Outreach, “Conflict with people, pets and livestock primarily occurs where hunting pressure has been intense, and large dominant males have been killed, causing disruption in localized cougar populations. Young males vie for that dominant position, and chaos can ensue for a while. In the words of Dr. Rob Weilgus whose research team has conducted many years of research on Washington’s cougar populations and their behavior, ‘When one old guy dies, three young guys come to the funeral’. All of a sudden young cougars are vying for dominance in the vacated territory, competing for resources for food and mating. The losers may venture onto ranches or farms in search of any kind of prey. So, we now know that the role of older dominant toms is very important in reducing conflicts with humans and their domestic animals.”

WWO has produced a video on staying safe in Cougar Country, which can be viewed here on our Vimeo channel.

Orphaned Cougar Kittens Get New Homes, Provide Education


RICHARD A. BEAUSOLEIL, Bear / Cougar Specialist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Guest Post

Between 2002 and 2012, 26 orphan cougar cubs have been reported to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), captured by staff, and placed with facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) throughout the country (Table 1, Figure 1).  In addition to over 15 million visitors per year at these facilities, innumerable television and newsprint stories have covered the capture, transport, and arrival of these animals reaching out to countless millions more people.  This has not only resulted in high quality cougar educations programs benefiting people who may never have the chance to see a cougar in the wild, but also brought prominent national attention to WDFW.

The process of responding, capturing, providing care until the arrangement are finalized, and transporting animals requires organization, commitment, and on occasion, personal donations of time and money.  In almost all cases, orphaned cougars are reported to WDFW by a member of the public concerned that the animals will not survive on their own.  In many cases, the reports are given without the reporting party knowing the specifics; only that the kittens have been seen for some time without an adult.   If it’s the first sighting, and we do not have background knowledge, we ask that they leave the animals alone and keep us posted; this avoids removing kittens that are not orphaned.  Usually within few days, additional information is obtained and we are more certain that the adult is no longer present and a response is initiated.  In addition to using several types of box traps, kittens have been captured using WDFW’s Karelian Bear Dogs, and also by hand on several occasions.  Once captured, all kittens are tested for FeLV, transported to a veterinarian, given a thorough examination and care is administered if needed and biological measurements are gathered and recorded.  Health certificates are then issued to facilitate transfer.  Many times, kittens need to travel by aircraft to their final destination.  Regulations require an absorbent material be used as a base layer in the crate, windows and doors be covered with breathable burlap, doors securely locked, and food and water provided.  Flights are almost always direct to the destination.  As much as possible, we keep the reporting party involved throughout the process; this had resulted in respect, credibility, and much appreciation.  We acknowledge the assistance of Michelle Schireman, North America Section AZA Felid TAG Puma Population Manager & Regional Studbook Keeper, who has been an invaluable collaborator in placing these animals.

Table 1.  Orphaned cougar kittens donated to AZA accredited organizations from Washington and annual visitation at these facilities, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2002-2012.
Date Found

# Kittens



Location Found

AZA Accredited Facility

Annual Visitation

May 8, 2002





Zoo New England, Boston, MA


August 21, 2004


2F, 1M

16 weeks


 Memphis Zoo, Memphis, TN

1 million

May 11, 2006





Oregon Zoo, Portland, OR

1.5 million

October 15, 2006



5 weeks

Walla Walla

 San Diego Safari Park, San Diego, CA

1.8 million

February 1, 2007



8 weeks


Dakota Zoo, Bismarck, ND


February 6, 2007



6 weeks


 San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA

4 million

December 5, 2007



5 weeks

Cle Elum

Topeka Zoo, Topeka, KS


December 14, 2007


2M, 1F

14 weeks

Cle Elum

1 M placed with Henry Dorly Zoo, NE

(2 died of starvation in quarantine)

1 million

January 12, 2008



16 weeks


Dakota Zoo, Bismarck, ND


January 18, 2008



16 weeks


Orlando Zoo, Orlando, FL

died in quarantine

April 8, 2008


1M, 1F

13 weeks


Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, LA

2 million

March 13, 2010



14 weeks


Northwest Trek, Eatonville, WA


October 8, 2010





Alameda Zoo, Alamagordo, NM


May 16, 2011



8 weeks


New York State Zoo, New York, NY

died in quarantine

October 30, 2011



6 weeks


Nashville, Zoo, Nashville, TN


November 7, 2011



7 weeks


Houston Zoo, Houston, TX

1.6 million

March 23, 2012



12 weeks


Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park, Palm Beach, FL


May 30, 2012


1M, 1F

18 weeks

Lake Chelan

Henson Robinson Zoo, Springfield, IL








Annual Visitation 15 million+ 


Feeding Wild Birds May Attract Unwanted Visitors to Your Home

By Rose Oliver, WWO North Cascades Field Coordinator

Don’t get me wrong, I love my wild birds. In fact, one of my favorite morning activities is sitting on my front porch with a cup of coffee and watching the towhees and grosbeaks have their morning conversation. I used to feed my birds year round when I lived in the city, but ever since I’ve moved to the country I’ve chosen to feed them only in the winter months when their normal food sources are lacking, usually November through March. This not only saves me a bunch of money on bird seed, but it also helps keep the wildlife that live near me truly wild.

Bears love bird seed and some studies have shown that over 80% of human-bear conflicts can be traced back to the bear’s first encounter with a bird feeder. Since bird seed is loaded with calories, especially the black oil sunflower seeds I feed my birds, bears can get a day’s worth of calories from just one feeder. And, once a bear discovers a bird feeder, they will often visit every home in the area looking for more. Bears that become accustomed to getting food from human sources can damage property and become aggressive in their pursuit of an easy food reward, which often leads to the demise of the “nuisance” bear at the hands of wildlife authorities responding to complaints about public safety. That is why the State of Washington recently enacted a new law making it unlawful to feed large carnivores, including bears, whether knowingly or unwittingly. Fines can be levied for violating this law.

Choosing to feed your wild birds only in the winter months while the bears are usually denning can help reduce the number of feeder-related bear incidents and help keep bears safe. However, bird feeders can bring in another critter all year round, the raccoon. And we all know how much of a nuisance raccoons can be, plus having raccoons visit your property often, whether you live in the city or the country, can attract another not so desirable visitor, the cougar.

In order to minimize that risk, I choose to feed my wild birds every other day or even every three days. That way, I make sure that the wild birds are cleaning up the feeding area thoroughly before I leave more food out for them. There are also other ways to help out your feathered friends by providing nest boxes and small shallow bird baths year round. In the summer months planting specific brightly- colored and trumpet-shaped flowers will attract the wild birds to your property, but not bears or raccoons. If you do choose to put bird seed out in the winter, you can suspend the feeder between two poles high enough off the ground that bears (and raccoons) cannot reach it, say seven feet or more. Pulley systems can help you access and fill the feeders. Clean up any spilled bird seed from the ground, and store the bird seed indoors. If we all do our part to avoid unnecessary wildlife attractants, we can keep Washington’s wildlife wild!

Cougar-Smart Efforts in British Columbia

The town of Squamish in British Columbia, our neighbor to the north, has the highest number of conflicts between humans and cougars of any town in British Columbia. That doesn’t mean that people are threatened by cougars. It means that cougars are reported coming too close to where people live and recreate or where they keep their livestock and pets. Squamish already has a very active Bear Aware Program, which they are now expanding to included cougars and other wildlife.

On Friday, June 22, Meg Toom wrote in the The Chief, the Squamish home-town newspaper, “Those statistics highlight the importance of expanding our awareness to include additional wildlife such as cougars. By reducing the availability of attractants for cougars, we can create a safer community for both humans and wildlife.”

“If we leave attractants (i.e. pet food or bird seed) accessible outdoors, we could be attracting small rodents to feed, which attract small domestic pets which, in turn, attract larger predators like coyotes and cougars. We all need to think of the food chain that we create within our own backyards.”

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project endorses these steps for reducing human/cougar conflicts. Cougars are present throughout many parts of Washington State where conflicts with cougars occur most often in areas where subdivisions have been spreading out into former prime cougar habitat. GBOP has also expanded educational outreach efforts to include information on cougar awareness and tips for co-existing with cougars. Click here to go to our Cougar Page
for more information on the adaptable and secretive cougar.

Cougar Story with a Happy Ending

Cougars are an important part of our natural heritage. Sleek and graceful, cougars are solitary and secretive animals rarely seen in the wild. With neighborhoods encroaching into wildlife habitat, the number of cougar sightings may increase, but a cougar sighting does not mean that there are more in an area. The cougar’s ability to travel long distances occasionally brings these cats into seemingly inappropriate areas, even places densely settled by humans. Such appearances are almost always brief, with the animal moving along quickly in its search of a suitable permanent home.

Photo: Mark Mulligan / The Herald

The young cougar in this news article was safely trapped and removed from such a place. “She could be at an age where she’s learning to hunt on her own. Her mother likely ran her off to encourage her to establish her own territory.” Such inexperience gets some cougars into trouble, but in this case good practices in non-lethal wildlife control techniques by state wildlife agents may help assure that this cougar will have no interest in anything human. Karelian Bear Dogs, which work to deter and repel bears, are being used to conduct similar work with cougars. Read the article, look at the photo gallery, and find that even an officer many years in the field can still be deeply moved to appreciate a magnificent young cougar.

Click the link to read the HeraldNet news article:


Cougar prowling Arlington caught, released in wild

Signs of Wolves

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Wolf Tracks

Wolf track
Wolf track

Track Comparison

Because wolves are elusive and are rarely seen, finding their tracks can be an exciting experience. The charts and information below illustrate some of the characteristics that distinguish wolf tracks from those of their close relatives, coyotes and domestic dogs. Each species has four symmetrical toes on the front and hind feet, with the front track slightly longer and broader than the hind. Claw marks are usually evident and the front of a wolf’s foot pad is single-lobed. The differences are not always clear so look for a combination of characteristics before coming to a conclusion.

Relative track size differences in wolves, domestic dogs, and coyotes:

Track size measurements (NOT including claw marks):

Wolves Compared to Coyotes

Adult wolf tracks are larger and more robust than adult coyote tracks. Young wolves’ feet grow large very quickly, and by the time they are about three months old (around July) even young wolves’ tracks are larger than most coyote tracks. Because wolves are much heavier animals than coyotes their tracks will show some spread in their toes, especially on the front track, more often than those of coyotes. In wolves, claws on the front feet are longer than the hind but generally register distinctly in both.

Wolves Compared to Domestic Dogs

Wolf tracks are larger than those of all but the largest breeds of domestic dogs, the genetic descendents of wolves. While many dog tracks can be easily distinguished from wolf tracks, some domestic dogs have tracks that are very similar to wolves, making them indistinguishable in some instances. Use the guidelines below to help in track identification. However, keep in mind that tracks alone cannot distinguish domestic dogs from wild canids with complete certainty.

Toes and Claws

Large dogs often spread their toes with all four toes radiating outward. Spread is less common in wolves and, if it exists, usually only the outer two toes spread. Wolves’ front claws are longer and more strongly apparent in tracks than the hind claws, but can appear distinctly in both. The appearance of claws in dog tracks is variable.

Track Size

The front feet of domestic dogs often have a round appearance with the length and width similar in size. Wolves’ front feet are often more rectangular in overall shape, longer than wide, unless the outer toes have spread. Track size of domestic dogs is highly variable but most dogs leave tracks that are less than 3.5 in. (9 cm) in length, where wolves’ tracks are 3.5 in. (9 cm) and above. Only a few breeds of dogs such as Great Danes, St. Bernard’s and Blood Hounds leave tracks longer than 4 inches. The tracks of German Shepherds, Malamutes, Retrievers and Setters are usually less than 4 inches long.

Wolves Compared to Cougars

Cougar tracks are often confused with wolf tracks. Distinguishing features of a mountain lion track are its roundness, the shape of the planter pad (main foot pad) and asymmetry of both the foot and the individual toes.

Because cats have retractable claws, mountain lion tracks do not usually show claw marks. This is not always true, however, as cougars sometimes use their claws to increase traction on steep or slippery terrain. Claw marks may also be present if the animal is traveling fast. If claw marks are visible, they will be directly joined to the toe, while the wolf track exhibits a 1/4-inch separation between claw and toe.

Appearance of nearby scats and proximity to people should be considered when large canid tracks are encountered. In some remote areas, large canid tracks may result from the practice of using hounds to hunt mountain lions.

Wolf Scats

Wolves produce scats, or droppings, which are usually composed of hair, bone fragments, and other signs of their carnivorous diet. Coyote scats, often smaller than wolf scats, typically contain small mammal remains, berries, or insects, but there can be some overlap in contents and appearance. Domestic dog scats are generally more uniform in texture and shape without noticeable hair or bone fragments. Never touch scats to avoid contracting parasites.

Wolf Scats

  • long and tubular – often strong in smell
  • range from 1 to 1.5 inches (2.45-4 cm) in diameter

Coyote Scats

  • twisted and irregular
  • range from .5 to 1.25 inches (1.5-3 cm) in diameter

Wolves often prey on large animals such as deer and elk. They have very powerful jaws so look for characteristic feeding signs of bone fragments and cracked bones near a carcass. Wolves as well as scavengers will eventually drag off parts of the carcass. Burying an entire carcass is a practice typical of cougars and occasionally bears, but NOT of wolves. If you find a carcass move away from it – bears may take control of a carcass and can be very aggressive.

Please report suspected wolf and wolf track sightings to the Washington Wolf Reporting Hotline at 1-888-584-9038.  
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Poaching Hotline 1-877-933-9847

Visit the Products page to see our Identifying Washington’s Wolves brochure.

First time “hard release” of a cougar in Washington


A 140-pound male cougar was too close for comfort, hanging around homes and a school near Enumclaw. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trapped the animal and then “hard released” the cougar using  Karelian Bear Dogs and shooting  bean bags to scare the animal away so it won’t return to the neighborhood. Fish and Wildlife officers fitted the cougar with a radio collar which will monitor its whereabouts.

There are approximately 2,000 cougars in Washington State. To learn more about cougars and co-existing with them visit GBOP’s website