(Updated: adding video, comments from authorities, poll)
Fifth cougar killed by authorities in Deschutes County since July
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Bend Police officers shot and killed a cougar in a northwest Bend neighborhood Wednesday night, less than 12 hours after the first of several sightings in the area led them to a deer-kill site in a home’s backyard, and to issue a warning to neighbors about the public safety hazard.
Community service officers responded around 10:20 a.m. Wednesday to the reported cougar sighting in the area of Northwest Third Street and Portland Avenue, police Communications Manager Sheila Miller said.
They found the deer-kill site in a nearby home’s backyard and warned neighbors, Miller said. Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife responded to remove the deer, posted warning signs of a cougar in the area “and determined the cougar was a risk to public safety,” Miller said in a news release.
Around 8:20 p.m., police responded to a second cougar in the area – a driver who said they almost hit the cougar as it crossed Northwest Saginaw Avenue, Miller said.
Deschutes County dispatchers also received another call reporting the cougar in the heavily populated area. When officers responded, several people were walking dogs in the area, Miller noted.
Officers found the cougar about six feet off the road in the 500 block of Northwest Roanoke Avenue, Miller said.
“The cougar was exhibiting behaviors consistent with being a public safety risk, including showing no fear of humans in extremely close proximity, hunting in a heavily populated area and returning to the kill site,” the police spokeswoman said.
ODFW advised police earlier in the day that if the cougar returned and continued to display such behavior, police should dispatch the animal.
"You know, God forbid something should happen to a dog or a kiddo," Miller told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday. "We just really have to keep public safety in mind in these situations."
After setting up a containment area and ensuring the location was safe, officers shot and killed the cougar, Miller said. ODFW took possession of the animal and later reported it was a 1- to 2-year-old, 77-pound female.
Beth Quillian, a public information officer for ODFW, says the cougar was shot instead of tranquilized because of the threat it posed to the community.
"Tranquilizing animals like a cougar can be pretty tricky," Quillian said. "It's not always as easy as tranquilizing the animal and it's down."
Miller says it was a hard, but necessary decision.
"We don't take this decision lightly, we care a lot about wildlife as well -- but our role is the safety of our community and our neighbors," Miller said.
This was the fifth cougar apparently habituated to humans that was shot and killed by authorities in Deschutes County since mid-summer. There also have been numerous other sightings reported around the region.
Authorities shot and killed a cougar near a Deschutes River Woods home in July, hours after two men fired several shots at the animal they said was acting aggressively near a deer kill, prompting an alert to area residents.
And in August, law enforcement shot and killed three cougars in residential areas in southwest Bend and north of Sisters, finding they had become too habituated to people, posed a danger to pets as well and that relocating the animals would not resolve the issues.
Quillan says the cougar could have made its way into town by following the river corridor.
"Cougar populations are pretty high, and the river serves as a corridor to kind of usher these animals into town, where there's a lot of food for them," Quillian said.
Quillian urges people to be aware that feeding wildlife can attract cougars -- if you feed the prey, a predator might show up.
"If you feed deer, maybe think twice about that," Quillian said. "Keep the areas around bird feeders clean, so that you're not attracting other little critters, which in turn attract bigger critters, like cougars."