Three cougar kittens captured in Oroville area

Cougar-Christensen-Cougar-50I’ve darted two cougars before, but never three. Sgt. Dan Christensen, WDFW

Story to be featured on Animal Planet’s Rugged Justice

OROVILLE – Three cougar kittens were captured by the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department in the Oroville area last week, according to Sgt. Dan Christensen.

The kittens, all weighing between 15 and 20 pounds, captured between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, one each day on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Apparently they had been eating the remains of a deer parts that had been illegally disposed of in a box on the side of the road. They were all found between Hart and Gayes Point roads off County Highway 7, said Christensen, an agent with the WDFW.

Officer Troy McCormick with Washington State Fish and Wildlife wraps cougar number 3 in warm towels and blankets after being found in the river after it was darted. WDFW/submitted photo

Officer Troy McCormick with Washington State Fish and Wildlife wraps cougar number 3 in warm towels and blankets after being found in the river after it was darted. WDFW/submitted photo

“Animal Planet’s Rugged Justice had been in town filming when the cougars were being captured. The first cat, darted on Sunday, was suffering from injuries and had to be euthanized,” said Christensen.

“We arrived on our last day of shooting a 10 day shoot with the Rugged Justice crew. One of the cougars I darted ran into Officer Justin Trautman who manually captured her. This cougar kitten had to be euthanized because of the open wound and shattered bones that were visible in the open wound. We never did locate the second cat I darted, nor the dart unfortunately. Brian Smith was the houndsmen along with his son Hunter Smith on Sunday,” said Christensen.

Cougar number three is warmed with blankets and  towels, as well as a heated water bottle.  WDFW photo

Cougar number three is warmed with blankets and towels, as well as a heated water bottle. WDFW photo

Rugged Justice left for Moses Lake on Monday and that day Oroville School District Superintendent Steve Quick reported that he observed two cougar kittens playing with each other on County Highway 7.

“Dave Sharpe responded with his hounds and quickly treed a cougar. This was behind the first houses on the left on Highway 7 along the river,” Christensen said. “This cougar was taken to Officer Trautman’s house and warmed in his garage overnight.”

Monday evening Officer Troy McCormick and the houndsman responded to a report of a cougar sighted in town near Fifth and Ironwood streets. They were unable to tree the cougar and darkness hampered efforts.

After filming the transfer of the cougar kitten from a bear trap to a transport box Rugged Justice was going to follow Officer Christensen to Brewster on Tuesday to conduct an in the truck interview about cougar number two, a male.

“However before we left Omak cougar number three was reported by Ed Lillquist to have been treed by a house dog. Prior to getting to it, the cougar left the tree. David Sharpe again came in and treed the cougar. It was high and difficult to dart but eventually we got a dart into the cougar,” said Christensen. “It jumped out of the tree and ran south.”

A crew from Rugged Justice uses a drone to film  shots of the Similkameen River, the town of Oroville, locations where the three cougar kittens were found and Sgt. Dan Christensen with WDFW.

A crew from Rugged Justice uses a drone to film shots of the Similkameen River, the town of Oroville, locations where the three cougar kittens were found and Sgt. Dan Christensen with WDFW.

The dogs were not able to locate it initially and the group searched on foot and eventually Sharpe brought in another dog and they found the cougar in the river. The cougar was wet and part of the drug Fish and Wildlife uses lowers the animals ability to regulate body temperature. Officer McCormick used towels and blankets to dry and warm the cougar in his lap while using the blankets to direct air from his truck heater onto the cougar, who at this point was still sedated.”

He also heated a bottle of drinking water and used that to place on the cougars stomach to help warm her. The nearby homeowner brought out heated towels that he warmed in his dryer to help. The cougar was taken along with its sibling back to Officer Trautmans and on Wednesday Officer McCormick transported them to bear and cougar specialist Beausoleil.

“As of now it looks like that cougar may be placed in a zoo in Minnesota. They are not suitable to release back into the wild as their mom was unable to teach them how to hunt, among our public’s toleration in the Okanogan,” said Christensen.

Cougar-Drone-Bridge-V-Cougar-50

The drone hovers above the 12th Street Bridge over the Similkameen while Sgt. Dan Christensen crosses in a WDFW truck. Gary DeVon/staff photo

Christensen says he and his fellow WDFW officers are no longer wildlife control agents and do not trap nuisance wildlife.

“Our mission is truly law enforcement with a focus on natural resource protection. We still maintain Dangerous Wildlife response for bear and cougar. Wildlife conflict has been moved back to wildlife management, not enforcement,” he explains. “The TV show has done a good job of showing a day in the life, obviously with the exciting stuff making the show. They are currently filming season three.”

Rugged Justice was filming shots of the area on where the cougars were caught on Friday, as well as footage of the Similkameen for opening shots and ads for the show. They used a drone to film Christensen driving across the Similkameen River bridge as well as shots of the town.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.