MT. HOOD NATIONAL FOREST, Ore. - (Update: Comments from news conference)
Law enforcement and other agencies said Wednesday they plan to use hounds as they try to track down the cougar believed to have attacked and killed a Gresham woman who was hiking in the Mn. Hood National Forest late last month.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is working with other agencies, including the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police - Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service.
"Due to rugged, challenging terrain and potential time since the attack, the initial effort will focus on using hounds trained to pick up a cougar’s scent to find the cougar," the update stated.
Recent rainfall affects the detection of scent by hounds, and it rained Tuesday in the area, so the use of hounds is expected to begin Thursday. the agencies said.
"Today, agencies involved are doing further reconnaissance and planning including placing trail cameras, posting closure areas, communication logistics (readying radios, other equipment to use during the operation) and developing a better understanding of the area."
At a news conference, ODFW Watershed Manager Brian Wolfer said if searchers find a cougar, they will kill it, and use DNA evidence to confirm it was the cougar that killed Diana Bober. He said their search will start in the area where Bober was attacked.
“We are going to be as humane as possible when we do that,” Wolfer said.
He said search teams will not have the means to trap the cougar in rugged terrain and bring it to a secure location to test its DNA before killing it.
Wolfer acknowledged that other cougars might be killed, but said killing and testing is the only option and that capturing a mountain lion in the steep terrain isn't an option.
Bober's death marked the first fatal attack by a wild cougar in Oregon and the second in the Pacific Northwest this year.
Clackamas County authorities said Tuesday that Bober's injuries were consistent with those of a cougar attack.
Earlier, deputies told KGW-TV the woman, the subject of a search since her disappearance, was found 100 yards off a trail down a steep embankment. and they had ruled out to their satisfaction it was not foul play.
Bober's sister, Alison Bober, later told KGW her sister fought hard against the animal.
"She had a sharp object she used," Alison Bober said. "She had Mace, she had a stick, so the evidence is clear she fought hard."
Here's the full news release issued Tuesday afternoon by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office:
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office recovered the body of Diana Bober, 55.
Ms. Bober's missing status was reported to the Gresham Police Department on September 7. It was reported that Ms. Bober had not been seen/heard from since August 29.
Ms. Bober’s body was found off of the Hunchback Trail in the Mt. Hood National Forest in Welches, Oregon on Sept.10.
According to the Medical Examiner’s Office, Ms. Bober’s injuries are consistent with a suspected cougar attack. Positive identification of the responsible genus of animal will be determined using DNA samples that have been flown by the Oregon State Police to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland. The Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is participating in the investigation.
Participating agencies in the search and rescue effort included Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue, Portland Mountain Rescue, Crag Rats, U.S Forest Service, Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, American Medical Response, Mountain Wave, and Hoodland Fire Dept.
The Hunchback Mountain trailhead is closed until further notice with additional closures possible.
The Oregon Trail School District has been contacted and made aware of the incident.
If you have any questions you can contact one of the below agencies:
United States Forrest Service – Laura Pramuk 503.668.1791
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – Michelle Dennehy 503.932.2748
If you wish contact with the family of Ms. Bober, please contact Sgt. Brian Jensen 503.785.5071.
The following is from the Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife:
“This is a terrible tragedy, and our sympathy goes out to Diana’s family and friends,” said Brian Wolfer, ODFW watershed manager. “All of us at ODFW are thinking of you today.”
This event is the first verified fatal attack by a wild cougar in Oregon. Wildlife managers will attempt to kill the cougar responsible for the attack. ODFW wildlife biologists and Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife officers went to the scene earlier today to assess the situation and decide how best to locate the cougar. Also, evidence from the scene has been sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore. for analysis.
Currently, Oregon has about 6,600 cougars of all age classes found throughout the state. ODFW tracks conflicts with cougars—situations where they kill livestock or pets or threaten human safety by being in town repeatedly in daylight. Complaints have averaged more than 400 per year statewide for the last several years.
Cougars can be killed by landowners or law enforcement when they cause agricultural damage or human safety issues. They can also be hunted. This tragic incident occurred in the Santiam Wildlife Management Unit, where cougar mortalities due to damage, human safety complaints or hunting have averaged about 20 per year for the past 10 years.
“This is an unprecedented event in Oregon, we are asking people to avoid this area while we attempt to remove this cougar,” said Wolfer. “We don’t know what risk it poses to the public.”
People who are recreating in the area or anywhere in cougar country are always advised to:
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Hike in groups.
- Keep your dog close to you or on a leash.
- Make noise to alert wildlife of your presence.
- Keep children close to you.
- Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.
If you see a cougar in this area, call 911.
If you encounter a cougar in the wild, you should:
- Stay calm and stand your ground.
- Maintain direct eye contact.
- Pick up any children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.
- Back away slowly.
- Do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.
- Raise your voice and speak firmly.
- If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands.
- If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any other items available