Partial remains of cat buried near Bend cougar; moving cougars habituated to humans not seen as solution
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Law enforcement shot and killed three cougars in residential areas in southwest Bend and north of Sisters over the weekend, determining by their actions that they had become too habituated to people, posed a danger to pets as well and that relocating the animals would not resolve the issues.
Oregon State Police responded to assist Bend police and shot killed a cougar Saturday on Hitching Post Lane, off Pinebrook Boulevard in southwest Bend after residents reported it was lying 10 feet from their property, OSP Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Lowell Lea said Tuesday.
The cougar was near a porch when police arrived, and after it was killed, the partial remains of a neighbor’s cat was found buried beside it.
“Cougars tend to bury what they don’t eat initially and come back” to eat the rest, the OSP sergeant said. “If they figured out, like the one in Bend, and find domesticated cats and dogs are a lot easier than killing a deer, that’s what they are going to do.”
On Sunday morning, a resident on Foothill Loop north of Sisters contacted authorities to say his dog had startled three cougars near his home, Lea confirmed. One ran off and the two others ran up a tree.
The resident said he took his dog inside and returned a half-hour later to find the two cougars were still in the tree. They were also still there when Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies arrived, and they were shot and killed.
OSP troopers assisted law enforcement in both locations, Lea, saying of the two incidents, “I think it’s just coincidental.”
“Sightings of cougars in residential areas in the daylight, in and of itself, is uncommon,” Lea said. “They are a very secretive animal. It’s one of the factors for determining it has become too habituated to humans.”
Authorities frequently are asked why cougars are not tranquilized and relocated, and consistently note the issues with that option, largely due to their territorial nature and the likelihood of new conflicts emerging.
“If you have a cat that is habituated to humans – if you move it to a new area, it’s going to have the same issue,” Lea said. And if it’s moved to a move remote area? “It’ll find it’s way,” he added.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy also noted that “cougars are extremely territorial, especially males. She echoed Lea on the issues of relocating cougars that have habituated and been seen in daylight in residential areas.
Tranquilizing a cougar doesn’t immediately render them harmless, either, he noted, as it takes time for the drug to take effect. “It’s tricky to do” without creating new dangers, Dennehy said.
Last month, authorities shot and killed a cougar near a Deschutes River Woods home, but recent years don’t show a rise in such incidents, despite the area’s growth, authorities said.
Dennehy provided a dozen years of statistics for Deschutes County regarding the taking (killing) of cougars due to loss of livestock or threats to humans and pets, which show a rise and fall, year to year:
"These could be situations where ODFW or law enforcement killed the cougar, or it could be members of the public," Dennehy said. "Landowners may kill a cougar causing damage or public safety issue without a permit from ODFW, though because of firearm laws in city limits, it’s often law enforcement that acts within city limits."
ODFW offers information and safety tips on their "Living With Wildlife - Cougars" page.