A cougar was reported near Badger Mountain in Benton County last weekend.
One woman reported on a neighborhood social media website that she was hiking with her dog through Badger Mountain vineyards and saw a cougar at the top of a ridge running west.
Benton County Parks received a similar report.
The department cautioned hikers to be careful, saying that the animal might be having a tougher than usual time finding food because of the winter weather.
If it is seen again in the area, Benton County Parks would like a call at 509-736-3053. Cougars seen in areas where they should not be also can be reported to the state wildlife hotline at 877-933-9847.
Cougars are occasionally reported in Tri-Cities, including not far from Badger Mountain.
In 2013 one was reported in south Richland near Gage Boulevard and two years earlier a cougar was found in a house under construction in south Richland above the Crested Hills neighborhood.
Cougars are known to live in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have previously advised people who come across a cougar in the wild to enjoy the sight of the usually reclusive animal. If the situation is dangerous, people should stand their ground and make noise rather than run away.