Wild animals also call Redmond home

As the home of big technology names such as Microsoft, Nintendo and DigiPen it's easy to forget that Redmond is also home to a number of wild animals.

As the home of big technology names such as Microsoft, Nintendo and DigiPen it’s easy to forget that Redmond is also home to a number of wild animals.

From robins and squirrels to raccoons and possums, it is not uncommon to come across small to mid-sized animals in the area. For Redmond resident Cynthia Ashley, however, her animal encounters have been a little more unexpected.

On an October morning, she was reading the newspaper when she looked out to her backyard and saw what she thought was a dog running across the yard. When the animal stopped, she realized it was actually a bobcat cub. Two more cubs came into the yard and jumped on the first one.

“It was really quite cute,” Ashley said. “They were small enough that you could tell they were playing. We have kids. They looked like brothers wrestling.”

To see a video of the bobcat cubs, shot by Ashley, click here.

Since the first sighting in October, Ashley said the cubs have visited her backyard a few more times. Despite the multiple sightings, Ashley has not called to have the bobcats removed from the area. She and her husband live on the greenbelt by Jonathan Hartman Park, so wild animal sightings are nothing new. In the 22 years they have lived in their home, they’ve seen coyotes, possums and raccoons in addition to the bobcats. The surrounding natural environment is these animals’ homes.

“We share the landscape with these animals,” said Chris Anderson, a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for King County.

He said Ashley had the correct response to her sightings. The best way to deal with bobcats as well as other wild animals is to let them to go about their business. If the animals become a problem, he said to use a blow horn or something else to make a loud noise to scare them.

Anderson added that the best way to discourage wild animals from coming into these areas is to make the areas unattractive to the animals. One way to do this is to take away the food source as he said most wild animals — including bears and cougars — that show up in urban and suburban areas are usually younger and looking for food. Food sources can range from bird feeders to garbage. Anderson added that people should also keep pets inside if they know a wild animal is in the area.

Marta Gronlund, communication program manager for City of Redmond, said while the city contracts with King County Animal Control for situations involving domestic animals, they refer to Fish and Wildlife for situations involving wild animals or when a citizen reports seeing a wild animal.

“Of course,” she added, “if it is a situation where there is immediate danger or an emergency, then they should always call 911.”

If a wild animal such as a coyote or bobcat is spotted near a school, Scott Emry, risk and safety manager at Lake Washington School District (LWSD), said district officials will work with Fish and Wildlife as well to deal with the issue. The school district takes its cues from the state when it comes to a response to a wild animal report.

“(Fish and Wildlife) help us determine whether it was legitimate,” Emry said. “We really try to rely on their help. We’re not the experts. They are. It’s really a partnership.”

He added that when they notify parents, Fish and Wildlife helps them with the wording because they don’t want anything to be misinterpreted. While they want to alert people of a wild animal’s presence, Emry said, they don’t want to cause alarm.

Emry said wild animal reports are few and far between and mostly occur in the Sammamish area. He said a few years ago, some sort of cat was spotted near a school in Sammamish right before dismissal and they went into a lockdown, not allowing students to leave the building. They notified parents about the situation and then consulted Fish and Wildlife.

While these wild animal sightings in urban and suburban areas occur occasionally, Anderson said most people encounter wild animals when they are in more natural areas. He said in these instances, some things can be done to stay safe.

The following tips and more can be found on the Fish and Wildlife website:

• When facing a black bear, remain calm and make your presence known (standing, talking, waving hands above head, etc.), but avoid eye contact. Do not approach the bear, especially if cubs are present. If you can’t move away and the black bear does not flee, try scaring it away by clapping your hands or yelling. Anderson said to use pepper spray if you have it on hand.

• In the case of an attack, fight back aggressively. If the attack continues, protect yourself by curling into a ball or lying on the ground on your stomach and playing dead.

• When facing a cougar, stop, stand tall and pick up small children. Don’t run as a cougar’s instinct is to chase. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back, but do not approach it. Do not crouch down or try to hide — try to appear larger than the cougar. If the cougar shows aggression, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. You want to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger. In the case of an attack, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet.

“Basically, you’re fighting for your life at this point,” Anderson said.