By Pete Thomas
Biologists in Washington State have captured, collared and released the largest mountain lion they've ever seen.
Brian Kertson of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Bart George of the Kalispel Tribe, used dogs to tree a 197-pound mountain lion Monday north of Spokane. An average male adult mountain lion, or cougar, weighs 140 pounds.
“He was a monster,” Kertson told the Spokesman-Review. “A cougar that pushes 200 pounds… I don’t care where you are in the world, that’s pretty extraordinary.”
The animal was so strong that the first tranquilizer dart was ejected when the cat flexed its thigh muscle. “He almost looked cartoonish he was so big,” Kertson said, adding that photos do not accurately show the size of the animal. “He looked big in the tree. But it wasn’t until we had him on the ground that we were gobsmacked.”
Kertson said that as far as he knew, it was the largest mountain lion ever captured in Washington State, about 15 pounds heavier than the previous capture record.
The tracking expedition was part of a study to better understand interactions between cougars and wolves. Despite its size – the cougar’s head measured 22 inches in circumference – the cat was quickly treed once the dogs were on the scent.
It was eventually tranquilized and captured in a net, so a tracking collar could be fitted, and measurements taken. George the 9-year-old mountain lion has been preying mostly on elk.
Adult cougars typically prey on deer. But there seems to be nothing typical about this animal, which awoke and escaped about an hour after being tranquilized.
Kertson, who stands 6 feet 2 and weighs 260 pounds, told the Spokesman-Review that the cat’s forearms dwarfed his forearms.
As to interactions between cougars and wolves, Kertson said, “General dogma is that wolves are dominant to cougars. I’m a little more skeptical of that narrative.”