A massive male cougar that was captured and tagged by biologists in 2018 was legally killed by a hunter on Sept. 9 in Eastern Washington.
In 2018, the tom cougar weighed 197 pounds, its head was 56 centimeters in circumference and it was 9 years old, according to Bart George, a wildlife biologist for the Kalispel Tribe who captured the cougar in 2018. The cougar was so large that biologists had to dart him twice. He was so muscular that one of the darts popped out when the animal flexed his thigh muscle. On average, tom cougars weight between 150 and 155 pounds.
At that time, the animal was captured and collared as part of Washington's ongoing predator-prey project, which is attempting to better understand the relationship between wolves and ungulates. A secondary consideration, however, is how wolves and cougars interact.
In 2018, the cougar was the largest captured cougar in Washington.
"Congratulations to the hunter, that's a big mature animal that has very likely sired lots of offspring in the region," George said in a text. "The removal of the big cat will make room for another mature male to fill his niche."
On Sept. 9, Brandon Reed was fishing and camping with his girlfriend and two children on Carl's Lake. That morning, they went for a hike around the lake, and he scrambled up to a rocky outcropping for scout for elk. Reed started searching a nearby drainage with his binoculars when he saw the tom cat lying under a tree.
"I'm glassing and laying clear across this drainage was a cat and a big cat," he said. "It struck me as huge. Laying there like your normal house cat."
Reed, who had his Tikka .300 mag rifle with him, went to the ground and sighted in on the tom. He estimated the shot was between 300 and 350 yards.
Reed figured that with a target so small, he would either hit the cat or completely miss.
"I'm either going to be high, low or I'm going to hit it," he said.
He fired, the recoil knocking him off the scope.
When he got the scope back on the cat, he saw it do two flips down the drainage before it disappeared into the tree line.
Reed hiked back to his truck and family, grabbed a shotgun and then went to retrieve the cat. He found the tom wrapped around a tree downhill from where he'd been lying. He also brought a rangefinder and found that he'd shot at 366 yards. He also found the collar and tag placed on the animal in 2018 and he notified state and tribal biologists.
Over the next several hours, Reed skinned the cat and packed out between 50 and 60 pounds of meat in addition to its hide and skull. He's waiting for the skull to be processed at the taxidermist and will submit it to check for a world record.
The largest cougar shot, according to the Boone and Crockett Club's record, was killed in 1979 by Douglas E. Schuk in British Columbia. The skull scored 16 4/16 points. The Boone and Crockett Club's runner-up cougar was killed in Idaho's Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness by Gene R. Alford of Kamiah, Idaho, in 1988.
"Truth of the matter is I want it to be a record," Reed said.