Big cat keeps farm wary - A cougar has been prowling an Arlington farm and has killed two goats so far.

By Scott Morris
The Daily Herald Writer


ARLINGTON, WA - Art Fry hasn't slept much the past week.

He's been staying up all night. In his pickup truck. With his rifle.

"Every night I've got to baby-sit my animals," he said.

Fear has settled on the small backyard farm several miles east of Arlington that Fry, 44, runs with his wife, Tami, a 42-year-old nurse.

A mountain lion is attacking his livestock.

The trouble began last week. The Frys were inside their mobile home when Tami Fry heard an unusual noise outside.

Art Fry took a look and saw one of his calves running loose in an unfenced field. He hopped in his pickup to round it up and soon realized why the calf was loose.

A cougar had scared the calf out through a hole under its pen and was toying with it.

"The cougar was playing with it like a mouse, just chasing it around," he said.

He almost reached for the shotgun on the truck seat next to him. But he worried whether shooting the cat would be legal, so he just chased it away.

The cougar returned. In the middle of the night, it easily cleared a 4-foot-high wire fence and slashed one of the couple's favorite goats, Jasmine.

They found her Friday morning, still alive but suffering with deep gashes. It took a veterinarian more than three hours to stitch her up.

Rick Oosterwyk, a state wildlife officer, answered the Frys' call that afternoon, bringing a hunter with trained hounds. But the hunter told them it was too dry for his dogs to catch the big cat's scent.

Washington state voters banned hound hunting of cougars and bears in 1996. But state wildlife officials still have authority to use hounds, with discretion, if humans or livestock are threatened.

Oosterwyk told Art Fry that it would have been legal for him to shoot the cougar when it was chasing his calf. This frustrated Fry, who said he had been told the opposite by other state wildlife officials on the phone.

Oosterwyk told the Frys to call him early if the cat returned, because they might have better luck tracking it while the morning dew was still around.

That night, Art Fry put Jasmine and her buddy, Joel, another goat, in a horse trailer for the night for protection.

The all-night vigils in the pickup began. He sat in the cab with his shotgun, waiting for the lion.

Jasmine died from her wounds that night in the trailer. Art Fry let an obviously grieving Joel out on Saturday morning.

One evening, Fry got a good look at the cougar as it prowled just outside the pen where it had attacked Jasmine. He grabbed the shotgun but realized the cat was a bit too far away to get a sure shot.

Joel was the lion's next victim.

The goat had wandered beyond Fry's field of vision into the open field next door one night. A neighbor found the goat, injured, but not as badly as Jasmine.

Tuesday morning, Joel died.

"He didn't die of his wounds," Tami Fry said. "He died of his grief."

A tear was in the corner of Art Fry's sleep-encrusted eye. It was 10 a.m., Thursday, and he had just woken up after three hours curled under a blanket in a living room chair. The television was still on.

A brand-new .30-30-caliber rifle was on the kitchen table. He bought it because it has much better range than the shotgun.

He still had to protect his horses, cows and dogs. Sleep would have to wait.

"It was funny, I was coming in yesterday and I looked out in the field and all I saw was big cows' butts," Art Fry said. None of his six baby cows were visible. "The little ones were surrounded" by five mothers.

"They know what's going on. They're nervous, too."

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@

Michael O'Leary / The Herald

Art Fry covers one of the two goats he lost to cougar attacks at his farm east of Arlington.



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