Wild cougar darted and relocated after wandering Leavenworth neighborhoods

Leslie Newell Spangler took this photo of a subadult cougar darted and captured on her Leavenworth patio Feb. 21.

LEAVENWORTH — Stained glass artist Leslie Newell Spangler got two surprises Sunday morning: A cougar on her patio, and a man with a rifle hot on its tail.

Spangler keeps her art studio in a detached shop at her Benton Street home, and said at midmorning Sunday, she headed from her house to the studio as usual. She heard voices in the alley, and when she looked out her studio window, a state Fish and Wildlife agent was there with a firearm.

The officer was one of three who’d been tracking an apparently healthy subadult cougar through town, after a rash of sightings in residential Leavenworth neighborhoods throughout the weekend. The big cat had climbed into Spangler’s fenced patio area and was huddled in a corner when they caught up to it.

The team invited Spangler to come catch a glimpse of the animal while they waited for a fourth officer to arrive with tranquilizer supplies. “They shined a light and I saw his face,” she said. “He was beautiful, just beautiful.”

Cougar incursions are not uncommon in Leavenworth, which butts up to woody foothills and mountains in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. When risks are low, wildlife officers usually attempt to trap the animals and deposit them in backcountry areas far from homes.

But animals that show aggression toward people, domestic animals or livestock are often removed lethally. In 2019, a young male cougar that lunged at a boy in a Leavenworth play area near the woods of Enchantment Park was tracked with dogs, treed, and shot dead by state wildlife agents.

Fish and Wildlife agents darted the cougar on Spangler’s patio. She said it jumped at the shot and tried to climb out, but fell quiet as the tranquilizer took hold. Spangler was allowed to pet the sedated animal and take photos and videos while state agents and Chelan County sheriff’s deputies prepared to take it away.

“I actually feel quite honored, because I love and respect our wildlife,” she said. “But I also understand and respect the job those officers do. Their job is keeping everyone safe.”

As for the cougar, she said, “This is your chance, buddy. Don’t come back to town.”