Bend man says he scared cougar away from deer, home

Not unusual to see cougars wandering through town

Cougar sighting in Bend

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Comments from resident, ODFW biologist)

A cougar was seen attacking a deer in the middle of northeast Bend on Sunday morning around 4 a.m. On Monday, we caught up with the resident who reported the close encounter.

Mark Wirges, who lives on the corner of Northeast 12th Street and Hawthorne Avenue, said he woke up to the sound of screaming and banging. He said he ran outside and saw a small cougar attacking a deer.

But when he turned on the lights, both the cougar and the deer ran away. The cougar reportedly escaped into Pilot Butte Cemetery. 

Corey Heath, a biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, says it's not unusual for young cougars to make their way into town.

"As these younger cats disperse, they're moving across the landscape, trying to find a home range of their own," Heath said. "If they encounter especially an adult male that already has a home range, they're either going to get killed or get bumped out. So they just keep moving, and just by random chance, they're going to end up going through town at some point." 

Officials say there are about 6,700 cougars in Oregon right now. The population has slowly risen since a law in 1994 made it illegal to use dogs to hunt cougars. 

In response to the sighting, police made others aware before schools returned to session Monday and more people will be walking in the area.

Police Lt. Clint Burleigh said said it was the only report police received.

Burleigh in a news release urged residents to "please be mindful of this report and call non-emergency (541-693-6911) if you see a cougar in your neighborhood."

"We work closely with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who specialize in handling this type of wildlife-human interaction."

It's not unusual for cougars to get into neighborhoods.

"Some years, we don't get any sightings in town proper, and other years we'll get two or three or four or five in town," Heath said. "So there's not really any rhyme or reason to it. Most of the sightings seem to occur this time of year."

If you do encounter a cougar, there are several things you should do. 

1. Stay calm
2. Maintain direct eye contact with the cougar 
3. Pick up children without turning back on the cougar
4. Slowly back away
5. Do not run
6. Speak loudly
7. If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look bigger and clap your hands
8. If you do all this and the cougar still attacks, fight back using any tools available.

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