(Update: Adding video of scene (warning: images might be disturbing), comment by neighbor)
A 135-pound male cougar that was sighted in recent days in the Deschutes River Canyon was tracked and killed Saturday morning in Deschutes River Woods, just south of Bend, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed.
“ODFW and Bend Police tracked a cougar into the Deschutes River Woods area this morning and dispatched it at approximately 8:30 a.m.,” the announcement stated.
“The cougar was a male weighing 135 pounds and based on its paw size (which matches tracks previously found around residences) and the territorial nature of male cougars, ODFW staff are confident it is the cougar deemed a human safety threat,” the statement continued.
“While there is no longer an immediate human safety issue in the area,” ODFW added, the “Deschutes River Canyon offers excellent cougar habitat and prey (deer). There is always a chance of encountering a cougar while recreating in this area, so anyone who uses it should review tips on what to do if you encounter a cougar.”
An area resident said she heard the barking of tracking dogs shortly before 8 a.m. and saw four people with ODFW and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and two tracking dogs that treed the cougar before it was killed in a heavily treed area by the river, off the gated section of Baker Road.
“We woke up to the dogs barking,” Karen Krueger said, and soon saw the two dogs that she thought might have treed a raccoon, as they also frequent the area.
“I was trying to make my way over, and that’s when they shot it and I heard it fall from the tree,” Krueger said.
Her husband, David Krueger, showed NewsChannel 21’s Max Goldwasser the location and said the removal of the threat to the area provided some relief.
“We were up each night, if the dogs had to go out, with a mag light, scanning our yard, making sure there was nothing there that might eat them, because they travel. It was really close.”
“We were a little nervous because it had been around for so long. We were shining the lights in the yard before we let the dogs out if they had to go out at night. So it’s a relief that we don’t have to do that any more.”
Cougar incidents bring many calls from critics that authorities should instead tranquilize and relocate the animals. But wildlife officials have repeatedly stated that once habituated, a cougar will often return to heavily populated areas — or cause similar problems in the new area — and that if they are moved into another cougar’s territory, it sets up potentially deadly conflicts between cougars.
ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said relocation can mean the problem just gets moved to a new area, or the cougar can be killed in a territorial fight.
“At this point, the cougar may have lost its fear of people,” she told NewsChannel 21. “It’s showing some behavior that indicates it’s a problem cougar. That behavior is not going to change just because you move it to a new location.”
“We do not relocate problem cougars like this” that are frequenting populated areas, she said. “A lot of times, these situations happen, and we hope the cougar leaves and doesn’t come back. But that’s not always the case.”
Dennehy also noted that with more than 6,000 cougars in the state, “we’re going to have these problems. So we address these public safety cougars, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the cougar population isn’t thriving — it is.”
ODFW and Bend police had said late Friday they were searching for a cougar in the Deschutes River Canyon in southwest Bend after repeated sightings of it in backyards and near homes — and that it would be killed if found.
“Both ODFW and Bend Police believe the cougar is a public safety threat due to the repeated sightings near human residences,” ODFW said in a news release. “The cougar will be euthanized if it is found.”
Earlier in the week, warning signs were posted after cougar tracks were found along the canyon and a notice was sent home to parents about the cougar activity by nearby Pine Ridge and Elk Meadow elementary schools.
ODFW asked residents to please report any cougar sightings in this area to the Bend police .
If you encounter a cougar:
· Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.
· 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.
· If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, bear or pepper spray, tools or any items available.
For more information on living with cougars, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp.
Cougar sighting sign with tips on what to do if you encounter one available at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/docs/CougarSightingSignFinal2.pdf