Officials on watch after cougar sighting near Walla Walla school

The report, which officials say is credible, is the second in the city in the past few months.

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WALLA WALLA -- City, county and state officials responded to a report of a cougar sighting in the Prospect Point area Monday night.

The call came in at about 9:15 p.m., reporting a cougar was seen leaving the area of Prospect Point Elementary School and jumping the fence to enter the Blue Mountain Cemetery, according to Mike Johnson with the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

City and county law enforcement officials arrived on the scene shortly afterward, with no further sighting of the animal, Johnson said.

He scoured the cemetery this morning and did not see evidence the cougar was still there, he said. "Cougars have big territories and can move long distances, 100 miles a day if they want to."

He cleared the area for a final time at 7:30 a.m.

The original reporter appears to be familiar with cougars and a credible witness, Johnson said. "At this point we are keeping an eye on it and apprising local law enforcement of the situation."

Prospect Point Elementary School staff are aware of the cougar, said Mark Higgens, communications director for Walla Walla Public School District. "We have learned from this situation, and others in the past, that cougars don't often move during the day. That's helpful for operating a school. Experts we have worked with say cougars are inactive during the day, especially if there is heat."

School staff is on alert to be "extra cautious" and ready to take necessary action to keep students safe, Higgens added.

The last reported cougar sighting in town was June 1 at Whitman College, Johnson recalled. So far there is nothing that is alarmi ng to him and his staff.

"Clearly, we have had cougars in the past and will in the future."

If anyone finds themselves sharing space with a cougar, it's best to appear larger than life, Johnson advised. "Grab a stick, raise your arms, make yourself look as big as possible."

To report a cougar sighting, call police dispatch at 527-1960.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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