KLICKITAT COUNTY, WA (KPTV) - Problem cougars in Klickitat County, Washington are now being handled by a posse of hunters deputized by the county sheriff.
Citing "numerous" complaints, sightings, and livestock killed in the sprawling county, Sheriff Bob Songer recently decided his department should take a more prominent role in dealing with the problem animals, with the help of the Sheriff's Posse.
"I think I have right now five hound handlers I swore in as posse members with a limited commission to carry out he hound hunting under my authority," Songer said.
Since an August incident in which a cougar was euthanized after being spotted inside Goldendale city limits, Songer estimates the posse has dispatched seven or eight animals, using hounds to track them.
Although the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirms Songer is acting within his legal authority, his actions have met with some criticism from members of the community.
"I hate to hear hounds with a cougar up a tree. It just breaks my heart," said Joy Markgraf, a county resident who called the sheriff personally to ask him to stop the cougar hunts. "Cougars are out here. This is country. And people who live in the country should try to live with wildlife."
Washington voters banned the hunting of cougars with hounds in 1996, but there are exceptions for wildlife officers and state and local law enforcement officers.
Songer said he notifies WDFW when his posse goes after a cougar, but also maintains his authority over the hunt.
WDFW said it officially has "no opinon" about the Sheriff's cougar hunts.
Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.