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Bellevue residents concerned about possible cougar sightings near Bridle Trails

Bridle Trails State Park along 132nd Ave. NE near NE 54th Place.  - Chad Coleman / Bellevue Reporter
Bridle Trails State Park along 132nd Ave. NE near NE 54th Place.
— image credit: Chad Coleman / Bellevue Reporter

Suspected wild-animal sightings near Bridle Trails State Park have some residents of the area talking about cougars.

Two grooms at Parkside Stables reportedly spotted two animals roughly the size of cougars and with long tails, according to stable owner Vicki Bergevin. The sightings came on separate occasions, one in the early morning and another in the evening.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has not investigated the matter because no official reports were filed.

"Cougar sightings in that Bridle Trails area and other parts of Bellevue are rare, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility," said Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Darren Friedel.

Bridle Trails is a 482-acre day-use park on the northern border of Bellevue, just east of I-405. The forested park is known for its horse trails and equestrian shows.

"It concerns us," said Alan Heywood, whose wife, Marianne, informed The Reporter of the animal sightings. "I have kids out on horses in that park."

Cougars have been seen near the north end of Bellevue before. In early September, an adult male cougar was struck by a car and killed on SR 520 near Redmond. Later that month, there were several reports of a cougar seen on the Microsoft campus.

Bellevue Police spokeswoman Marcia Harnden said wild-animal sightings are not common in North Bellevue.

"The vast majority of wildlife sightings are in the south part of the city, and they seem to be getting less and less common with development," she said.

Bellevue Police officers are not trained to capture or track wildlife, but they are prepared to use force if an animal poses an immediate threat to citizens, Harnden said.

Cougars most commonly hunt other wildlife such as deer and elk, but they occasionally prey on pets and livestock, according to Fish and Wildlife.

There has been one fatal cougar attack and 15 non-fatal attacks on humans in Washington during the past 100 years, according to the agency.

Fish and Wildlife recommends the following tips for avoiding conflicts with cougars:

• Don't feed wildlife and feral cats. Predators follow prey.

• Keep pets indoors during dark hours, and feed them inside as well.

• Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.

• Don't leave small children unattended.

• Prune shrubs and trees around kids' play areas several feet to prevent them from becoming hiding places for cougars.

For more tips, visit wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/cougars.htm.

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