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DRW Cougar's Killing Sparks Debate

By Mackenzie and Barney
Published On: Jun 26 2012 03:52:02 PM CDT
Updated On: May 13 2011 08:22:20 AM CDT
BEND, Ore. -

"It killed the deer, it didn't hurt anybody, it scared a few people but there was no reason for them to trap it and kill it," said Bend resident Debbie Rush. "I mean they shot it!"

Controversy erupted Friday after a deer-baited trap caught a cougar Thursday night in Deschutes River Woods.

Never in Oregon has a mountain lion killed a person, according to state biologists. But they have in other states, and based on studies of those cat's behaviors, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said our cougar could have attacked too.

"Repetitive sightings, repetitive sightings during the day -- those are all danger signs," ODFW biologist Steven George said Friday. "It's cougar behavior that isn't normal."

The cat was trapped in a DRW backyard Thursday night around 10 p.m. As it paced back and forth in the cage, Barbara Mogden and her family were unnerved by how comfortable the cat was around them.

"It's a big, wild animal," Modgen said. "And you know any wild animal can turn on you, no matter how calm they may seem to start with."

Which is a gamble ODFW was not willing to take, adding that if they took the cat somewhere else, it would find its way back.

Some concerned residents wondered, why not take the cougar to a zoo? But ODFW officials said zoos either don't want cougars, or can't take care of them.

"A lot of places just aren't equipped to handle a wild cat," George said. "And then typically the existence of an animal put in a small cage is pretty tough on a wild animal that's been free most of it's life."

So, instead of being locked up the rest of it's life, officials ended the male cougar's life. The mountain lion will be preserved for educational purposes, after all, seeing the elusive creature is a rarity.

"You see these things on TV, and I've seen plenty of other wild cats at the zoo but not a cougar," Mogden said. "So yeah, pretty impressive, quite a beautiful animal."

Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said they got the call shortly before 10 p.m. that the trap, at the corner of Shoshone and Pumice Butte roads, had been sprung, apparently by the same cougar that had dragged the dead deer to a home's yard the night before.

The adult male cougar was euthanized a short time after the capture, according to George. He later told NewsChannel 21 they first tranquilized to knock out the animal, so it could be moved out of the neighborhood, before it was fatally shot.

George said Friday that the male cougar was in excellent condition, weighed about 120 pounds and was probably 2 to 3 years old.

While some in the area said they had sighted two cougars days earlier, USDA Wildlife Services officials investigating the area found only tracks from one male cougar, George said.

Despite the capture, the biologist said area residents should continue to take extra safety precautions with livestock, pets and children for the next couple of weeks.

"I know my husband's heart was thumping," Barbara Mogden said Thursday after the cougar killed a deer in her backyard.

Survival of the fittest played out live for her family.

"He could hear kicking against the fence, the hooves kicking against the fence, and then he heard the deer yell, or the deer scream," Mogden said.

Mogden and her husband are well aware, their property in DRW is a wildlife haven. But it was still a surprise when a big cat got a little too close for comfort Wednesday night.

"I think we have a cougar attacking a deer in the back," Mogden's husband told her as he called 911.

After it made its kill, the cougar dragged the deer through the dirt, onto green pieces of plastic, close to a shed in the backyard. Then it covered the carcass with wood and took off.

"Typically cougars will go back to that carcass multiple times until it's gone," George said.

"What triggers an animal like that to all of the sudden attack a person, we don't know," he added. "But these are the types of animals and it's the type of profile that those are the kinds that tend to do that. So to be on the safe side, we elect to just remove them from the population."

But that doesn't mean you should get out your gun if you encounter a cougar. While it is legal to kill them if you feel you're being attacked, gun regulations within city limits will bring consequences for you if you decide to pull the trigger.

Wildlife officials believe the cougar is younger and has been venturing into Deschutes River Woods for food and new territory. They said shooting the cat is the most humane way to kill it. Also, using this method, the cougar's body can be preserved for educational uses.

This was the second cougar sighting in Deschutes River Woods Wednesday night, the first was just before dark, by a resident on Choctaw Road.

Deputies and wildlife experts are urging people in the area to be alert and aware, especially near dusk and dawn.

Late last Friday, a deputy shot at and believed they may have wounded a cougar in DRW, but the animal ran away.

Experts say it's uncommon for cougars to be so visible on several occasions in one area over a short period of time.

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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a news release Thursday afternoon about the situation and their advice:

ODFW and USDA Wildlife Services are working to trap a cougar that has been seen multiple times in the Deschutes River Woods neighborhood in south Bend over the past several weeks.

The young cougar is considered a human safety risk because it has been seen repeatedly in a residential area during daylight hours. In keeping with ODFW policies, once trapped, the cougar will be euthanized.

Last night, the cougar killed a deer in the back lot of a home in the neighborhood. ODFW has set up a cage (or live) trap using the deer kill as bait, as the cougar may return to its kill.

Last week (evening of May 6), Deschutes County law enforcement deputies shot at the cougar but it is not clear if the animal was hit. The cougar was seen last night about 10 p.m. and did not show signs of being injured.

Cougar sightings are not uncommon in the neighborhood, which is an outlying subdivision with forests and deer that give cougars cover and prey. ODFW believes the cougar is spending most of its time along the Deschutes River corridor and coming into the subdivision to hunt.

Residents in the area are reminded of safety precautions to take:

? Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer or elk concentrate; cougars could be there too.

? Keep pets indoors at dawn and dusk. Shelter them for the night.

? Feed pets indoors.

? Be more cautious at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.

No person has ever been attacked by a cougar in Oregon and encounters are very rare. But should you encounter a cougar:

? Leave the animal a way to escape. Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity.

? Stay calm and stand your ground.

? Maintain direct eye contact.

? Pick up children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.

? Back away slowly.

? Do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.

? Raise your voice and speak firmly.

? If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands.

? In the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any items available.

More information is available on ODFW?s Living with Cougars webpage.

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