A Redmond man at first denied the cougar he killed last year was in a live trap when he shot it, but later pleaded guilty to a related charge and was fined $1,300.
Biologist Brian Kerston saw right away that something was wrong with the live trap he had set to capture a cougar for research purposes.
The door of the cage was sprung, but there was no big cat inside. Looking closely, Kerston realized that the floor of the trap was smeared with blood.
“There was a big pool of blood in the back,” said the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) researcher, who tracks cougar movements. “I was pretty sure somebody had shot something in that trap.”
It didn’t take wildlife officials long to piece together an evidence trail that led them to a 53-year-old Redmond man who killed a young male cougar in the trap, then tried to pass it off as the product of a legitimate hunt. Ronald Dean Wentz initially denied that the animal, which was wearing a GPS collar, was in the trap when he shot it. Wentz later admitted he had lied. He pleaded guilty to a related charge and was fined $1,300.
Most Read Stories
“I’ve been doing cougar research for over 10 years, and this is the first time I’ve had anything remotely like this happen,” Kerston said. “To say I was angry would be a wild understatement.”
Wentz declined to comment.
The incident occurred in February 2016 but was brought to light recently when an animal-rights group requested an investigation.
Kerston is studying interactions between cougars in eastern King and southeast Snohomish counties and their human neighbors in communities like Duvall, Fall City and North Bend. As part of the project, he captures cats in large traps baited with roadkill and camouflaged with branches and brush.
The trap where the cougar was shot was on a large tract of private timberland called the Snoqualmie Forest, northwest of Mount Si in…