A cougar that was stalking her brother near their Washington state home was shot and killed by an 11-year-old girl
, the fourth big cat killed by the same family in the past three months.
The girl was returning from school on Feb. 20 and her brother, 14, was walking home in the small town of Twisp, about 150 miles northeast of Seattle, with a malnourished cougar behind him.
Their father, Tom White, saw the cougar and yelled to alert his son. Once the boy had scrambled inside, the girl, who also entered the house, retrieved a rifle and shot the cougar, said Sgt. Dan Christensen of the state's Fish and Wildlife Department.
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The 4-year-old cougar, which weighed 50 pounds, or half its ideal weight, had been trailing the family's cattle the day before it was shot, Christensen said.
The cougar was the ninth to have been killed in the area beginning in December, with four shot by members of the White family, including one by the 14-year-old boy. Five were hunted down by state wildlife officers responding to calls of the big cats threatening people or domesticated animals, Christensen said.
An increasing number of cougars have been sighted in the narrow Methow Valley, Christensen said, though it is not clear whether the trend owes to a surge in the area's big cat population or to the predators' difficulty in finding enough deer to prey upon in the nearby hills.
The White family is steeped in hunting and "knows where its meat comes from," Christensen said. But it hasn't been free from controversy.
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Tom White in 2012 pleaded guilty to illegally killing two federally-protected wolves. He was sentenced to three years' probation and a hunting ban and his wife and father also pleaded guilty to charges, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Christensen said there was no indication of any wrongdoing in the killing of the cougar and White himself could have legally shot it if he feared for the safety of his family.
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