LA PINE, Ore. - Wildlife managers on Thursday morning found and killed a young female cougar in La Pine, the fifth to be killed in the area since Saturday after a string of neighborhood sightings and pet and chicken killings.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did not provided details of where the cougar was found and killed, similar to their earlier announcement of Monday's killings of an adult female and two yearlings. A third yearling got away and had been tracked since.
ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy told NewsChannel 21 the fifth killed cougar was, as earlier indicated, a yearling, or juvenile cougar, a female estimated at 1 1/2 years old.
"At this age, they are capable of being independent," she said. "Cougars usually disperse from mother between the ages of 1 and 2."
"We have no other confirmed sightings and don't have evidence (of) more in the area," Dennehy said.
“However, this is cougar country, so (it's) still a good idea to be aware and feed pets indoors," she added.
The earlier sightings had prompted Oregon State Police and the ODFW to warn residents Tuesday to “be aware of cougars causing public safety issues in and around town.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and ODFW spent Tuesday and Wednesday tracking the remaining cougar after a sighting at the Corner Store in La Pine Tuesday morning.
Two pets (one dog and one cat) and 12 chickens have been killed by cougars in the area recently. On Saturday, another pet dog was attacked by a cougar. Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed that cougar under a home’s deck.
La Pine residents have been understandably on edge about the incidents.
"It's wild, having them around here right now," one said. "I think everybody in this area is concerned about all of the cougars and all of our pets."
Diana LaVoie said a cougar left fresh footsteps on her driveway earlier this week.
On Monday, ODFW/Wildlife Services killed three cougars (one adult female and two yearlings). A third yearling cougar escaped and was believed to be the one seen at the La Pine Corner Store Tuesday morning, officials said.
In the past week, ODFW had received several complaints about cougars attacking and killing pets and being seen during daytime in the La Pine area. USDA Wildlife Services and ODFW found cougar tracks on house decks and in backyards.
By law, cougars are considered human safety risks when they attack pets, act aggressively, or are seen repeatedly during daylight hours in residential areas, ODFW said in a news release Tuesday.
“Wildlife managers will not relocate these cougars because they simply cause problems in new areas or return to where the original problem occurred,” the announcement said. “Cougars considered human safety risks are killed to stop future conflicts.”
The deep snow Central Oregon has been experiencing is likely playing a role in this situation, biologists say.
“The cougars are having trouble hunting their traditional prey, so (they) are coming to residential areas for an easier meal,” said Corey Heath, ODFW wildlife district biologist. “Unfortunately, at this point we consider them a significant human safety risk, so they need to be removed for the safety of La Pine residents.”
In addition, ODFW asked residents not to feed deer and elk by putting out hay, wheat, alfalfa or other food. Artificial feeding concentrates deer and elk unnaturally and may also attract cougars that prey on deer and elk near feed sites. It can also make deer and elk sick, as their digestive systems have already adjusted to lower-quality forage available during winter, and they cannot digest this higher-protein food.
"You have to do what you have to do," LaVoie said. "They're out for food right now. Just be aware you're outside and be alert."
La Pine area residents are being encouraged to take steps to protect their pets. Please feed your pets indoors and walk your dog on a leash. Be aware of your surroundings, especially at dawn and dusk. More tips available at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp
There has never been an attack by a wild cougar on a person in Oregon, though it has occurred in other states and Canadian provinces. Oregon wildlife managers respond to human safety issues like the one that is happening in La Pine to keep cougar conflicts minimized.
Oregon is home to approximately 6,300 cougars.
One cougar is dead, having been killed under a La Pine home's deck over the weekend. But it’s believed two others are still roaming residential areas, and reports of more sightings and pets being attacked are leaving many residents concerned.
"I came down here to take care of the chickens, saw the tracks about midway down the trail, ran down here and just came to a mess,” Paulina Avenue resident Shannon Shahan said Monday..
Shahan said cougars jumped a fence to a cage that used to hold 16 chickens.
"Four of them were alive when I got down here and two of them have since passed away from injuries or shock,” she said.
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies shot and killed one mountain lion early Saturday, after a string of attacks on pets in the area.
"Occasionally, we do get a sighting. It’s uncommon to get repeated sightings over short periods of time where domestic animals are being killed,” said sheriff's Sgt. William Bailey.
It’s believed there are still two more cougars on the loose that are entering neighborhoods. Agents from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Agriculture are following up on the sightings. There is no word what the plan for the animals will be.
"There's a potential threat whenever a cougar and the public are in close proximity. We would hate to wait and find out (when) someone would actually get hurt,” Bailey said.
Shahan said she believes the harsh winter is driving animals into neighborhoods, looking for food.