BEND, Ore. - The search continues for one more cougar in La Pine. Four have been killed in recent days, stemming from a string of sightings and pet attacks. Now, several Deschutes River Woods residents have told NewsChannel 21 they’ve seen mountain lion tracks off River Woods Drive.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that they have not received any reports from the rural subdivision south of Bend and are not currently investigating the area.
Still, some DRW residents said Wednesday they are concerned with the possibility of cougars in the area.
"As you can see, I have a small therapy dog,” said Coco Granger. “She goes with me everywhere, and that's a concern, because I've heard recently in La Pine several little dogs have gotten attacked."
Laird Nicholson, a clerk at Riverwoods Country Store, said pet owners need to be alert.
"If you let your dogs, cats, whatever run around free, chances are you're going to lose it. You should know better,” he said.
George Wuerthner, a staff ecologist for Predator Defense, said killing the cougars is not going to solve the problem.
"If a habitat is good for an animal, it will be filled again by other animals. Maybe the next one that fills (it) will be more inclined to attack a person,” Wuerthner said.
He said the big cats often live around people without them knowing or ever causing harm.
"Just because a cougar is walking through a neighborhood doesn't necessarily mean it's a risk to anybody. So that lethal result, the killing of them, is probably unnecessary,” he said.
The public is divided on what should be done to the animals.
"If there are cougars in the area, there's no reason why you can't dart them, collar them, transport them," Nicholson said. "If they come back, then you watch them. That's the whole reason behind the collars.”
According to ODFW, by law, cougars are considered a safety risk when they attack pets or are seen repeatedly in residential areas during daylight hours.
"If they're that bad and they're getting mean like that, then by all means do what's right to keep the human population alive,” Granger said.
Meanwhile, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said the fifth La Pine-area cougar was not found Wednesday and there were no new reported sitings. She said officials will continue to monitor the area.