SEATTLE – With a cougar possibly on the prowl, Seattle's largest park remained off-limits to holiday weekend revelers as state wildlife agents tried to trap the elusive animal.
On Friday, wildlife agents set a second trap while most people, including runners, picnickers and other nature-lovers, obeyed orders to stay out of the popular tree-filled urban retreat known for its spectacular views of Puget Sound.
In the past week, at least four people have made credible reports of cougar sightings in or near Discovery Park, a 534-acre preserve northwest of the city's downtown. The most recent was on Friday morning, by a man who said he saw a cougar in his driveway as he went out to pick up his newspaper, said Seattle parks spokeswoman Joelle Ligon.
Though no tracks have been found, possibly because of the warm and dry weather, and no pictures have been taken, officials closed the park Thursday as they tried to capture the animal.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife set the first trap Thursday, a cage covered with brush and ferns and baited with dead fish and elk liver. Authorities set a second one after park staff found a raccoon that had been killed.
Fish and Wildlife Capt. Bill Hebner said wildlife officers determined the raccoon had not been killed by a cougar but the second trap was set in that area since it was close to the point where the cougar apparently re-entered the park after the Friday morning sighting.
Cougars — also called mountain lions, pumas, panthers and catamounts — more commonly attack pets and livestock than people.
But a 5-year-old boy was mauled in the northeastern corner of Washington state on Wednesday, and other attacks have been reported in a few Western states, including Washington and Wyoming, in the past year. In June 2008, a cougar killed a 55-year-old man in New Mexico.
Most of those, however, were in rural areas. Many locals here made a parlor game of guessing how a cougar wound up in the Magnolia neighborhood, on a peninsula separated from any wilderness by water and a large city.
Lori Jacobs, 41, said she saw the cougar Monday night as she pulled her car into an alley next to her home, about a mile from the park. Worried about her cat, which was outdoors, she drove toward the cougar until it ran off.
"I thought, 'You are a magnificent animal that doesn't belong in my alley,"' she said.
Her cat, Precious, was unharmed.
The last time a cougar was seen in Discovery Park was in 1981.