BEND, Ore. - (Update: Humane Society of US urges ODFW to not kill cougar)
The Humane Society of the United States on Thursday urged the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to halt its plans to kill a cougar seen in the southern Bend area in recent weeks and believed to have killed a deer in a subdivision near the Deschutes River.
"We strongly urge ODFW to use nonlethal methods to address this situation and prevent the unnecessary killing of the cougar," Kelly Peterson, Oregon senior state director of the animal protection organization, said in a note accompanying her letter to ODFW Director Curt Melcher.
"We believe ODFW has a responsibility to protect our state's wildlife and prevent needless killing when possible," Peterson wrote. "We also believe that public education and outreach on coexistence with cougars in the Bend area and beyond could greatly benefit those who may need additional support in learning how to live near native carnivores."
"We would greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with ODFW on this, such as through coexistence workshops in key communities," she added.
In the letter, Peterson said cougars that pass through developed areas on occasion are usually sub-adults "looking for a mate or new territory ... who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cougars avoid human encounters whenever possible!"
"The most effective approach is to continue monitoring the situation and allowing the cougar to leave on his own volition," she wrote. "in the rare occurrence that a cougar does outstay his welcome, there are viable, nonlethal options available to ODFW employees and local law enforcement officials."
ODFW said Wednesday it is taking steps to kill a cougar seen several times on the south end of Bend after two more sightings in the Deschutes River Canyon area, one near Fred Meyer last week and the other involving a deer kill in a subdivision this week.
ODFW said there was a sighting near the canal near Fred Meyer during the early morning hours on Monday, May 6.
The second, "more concerning report," ODFW said, is of a deer kill within a subdivision on the east rim of the Deschutes River canyon. ODFW investigated the kill site and confirmed it as a cougar kill on Wednesday.
"Based on the additional sightings and evidence of the cougar’s continued use and residency within city limits, ODFW and Bend Police believe this cougar to be a public safety threat," the agency's report said. "ODFW is now taking steps to kill the cougar."
Residents and hikers in the Deschutes River Canyon area are encouraged to continue taking precautions and to review cougar safety information.
Earlier story from April 24:
An adult cougar has been spotted and confirmed to have been using the Deschutes River Canyon area within the Bend city limits, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday, joining Bend police in urging people to avoid the area for now.
The cougar was sighted Monday morning and again on a trail camera about 8:30 p.m. Monday night.
While the cougar is not considered an immediate human safety threat, ODFW and the Bend Police Department are advising people not to use the canyon or River Trail system upstream of Bill Healy Bridge.
The area has been signed to let people know a cougar was seen and steps to take during a cougar encounter. People are being advised to avoid using that area of the River Trail system upstream of the bridge as long as the signs remain in place, to reduce the risk of any encounter.
The cougar was spotted in the same general area as the one euthanized by wildlife managers in February for being a public safety threat. That adult male cougar had been actively hunting for several days in backyards, on city streets, in resort areas and near human residences, the agency said.
"The cougar seen Monday has not shown behaviors described in statute indicating it is a human safety threat," ODFW said in a news release.
Under Oregon Revised Statute 498.166, cougars are considered a public safety threat when they kill pets, act aggressively, or display loss of wariness of people by being seen repeatedly in daytime around permanent structures in areas of human activity. These criteria are further discussed in the state’s Cougar Management Plan.
“At this time, ODFW and Bend Police will just be monitoring the situation, and we hope the cougar will leave the city and the Deschutes River Canyon area on its own,” said Corey Heath, Bend district wildlife biologist. “Should its behavior escalate, we will have to re-evaluate the situation and our response.”
Additional trail cameras have been placed in the area to monitor for cougar activity, and representatives from the area housing subdivisions have been notified about the cougar sightings.
Residents of the area are encouraged to review Living with Cougar safety tips at ODFW’s webpage and take steps to reduce conflict, including feeding pets indoors and keeping them in at night. https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp