REDMOND, Ore. - (Update: New cougar sighting off Scenic Drive north of Bend; no animal, tracks found)
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies responded Monday afternoon to another cougar sighting, the third in recent days, this one north of Bend. But an official said a search did not find the animal or any tracks in the area.
Sgt. William Bailey said deputies were dispatched to the reported sighting off Scenic Drive. He said several deputies checked the area but could not find the animal or any tracks.
There have been other cougar sightings in recent days off Agate Road in Deschutes River Woods, south of Bend, and in southwest Redmond, possibly connected to a dog attack and prompting a lockout at nearby Ridgeview High School.
Bailey said Monday night there had been no additional sightings in those or other areas that he was aware of.
"Deputies will continue to respond to any reported sightings in our residential areas," the sergeant said. "Anyone who sees a cougar in a residential area should report the sighting as quickly as possible to non-emergency dispatch 541-693-6911."
A search in southwest Redmond Friday failed to find a cougar that apparently attacked a small dog and prompted a lockout at Ridgeview High School. But south of Bend, a Deschutes River Wood resident spotted a cougar Saturday morning, prompting another search that officials said failed to find that animal.
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies were dispatched around 9:15 a.m. Saturday to the area of Agate Road near the lava flow for a cougar sighting, Sgt. Deke DeMars said.
The callere reported being at a residence when they saw a cougar bedded down in some bushes at the end of Agate Road, DeMars said.
Deputies conducted an etensive search but did not locate the cougar.
Sheriff's Sgt. William Bailey also confirmed Saturday to NewsChannel 21 that the extensive search in southwest Redmond search on Friday was unable to locate that cougar as well.
Police had responded around 7 a.m. Friday to the 4600 block of Elkhorn Avenue on a resident’s report that their small dog had been attacked by a cougar around 4:30 a.m., Redmond police Lt. Curtis Chambers said in a joint news release with the sheriff’s office.
The resident reported hearing “short growls,” followed by whimpering. The dog owner opened their front door to see a "larger animal" drop the dog and “bound” away from the house, the agencies said.
The dog suffered two puncture marks, one on the top of its back and one on its side, but the injuries don't appear to be life-threatening, they added.
Redmond police, assisted by Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, searched the area and found two paw prints near the reported dog attack location.
ODFW estimated their confidence to be “80% that the two larger prints found in the area were consistent with those of a mountain lion or cougar. As of late afternoon, Chambers said, there was no information to determine the exact whereabouts of this animal.
The Redmond School District was advised of the incident due to the attack's proximity to Ridgeview High School. For the safety of all on campus, the school was put on a temporary “lockout,” meaning exterior doors were locked
The sheriff’s office said it had received earlier reports of possible cougar activity southwest of Redmond.
“The sheriff’s office does believe that based on the investigation and information from our partners that a cougar in the SW Redmond area does pose a significant safety risk to our community,” the statement said.
“The sheriff’s office is utilizing resources available to track the cougar, so the safety of human life, domestic animals and livestock is maintained,” the news release said. “The search is being coordinated by the sheriff’s office, and developments will be released by the sheriff’s office at a later time.”
Sheriff L. Shane Nelson issued this statement: “This cougar is a threat to public safety, and I will not allow this cougar to have an opportunity to injure another pet or tragically injure or kill a person.
"I have conferred with other partnering agencies and let them know my intent. A cougar has been seen too many times in this area, and we are not going to take a risk with an encounter.”
Chambers said the Redmond Police Department wants to remind everyone to be aware of their surroundings.
“Central Oregon continues to grow, conflict between humans and wildlife is likely to occur,” he said. “If confronted by a cougar, the best advice is to make yourself appear large and make a lot of noise. If you are attacked, you should fight back with all of your ability.”
The sightings come days after Bend police and ODFW reported cougar sightings in the Deschutes River Canyon area, upstream from Bend's Bill Healy Bridge, and urged people to avoid the area until they could confirm the cougar was no longer in the area.
Ridgeview and Redmond high schools were both placed in lockout status for unrelated reasons Friday morning, but both lockouts were lifted later in the morning.
After the likely cougar tracks were found nearby, Ridgeview canceled the day's outdoor sporting events and practices as a precaution.
The Ridgeview lockout was lifted before 11 a.m. and this update was sent to families a short time later:
"Redmond Police Department, Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife have deemed the area safe and have informed us we can lift our 'lockout.'
"They have spent the morning searching for potential wildlife in our area after an alleged cougar sighting. They have confirmed finding cougar tracks in the area near our campus, however they believe it is no longer in our immediate area.
"At this time, ODFW, Oregon State Police and Redmond Police are discontinuing their search and we have ended our 'lockout.' However, as an added precaution, we will not be holding any athletic competitions or practices on our campus today. Athletes, please check your school email or listen for announcements about practice and game updates.
"ODFW wants to remind everyone that we live in cougar country and to always use precautions when out in nature. Please click the link to review the Oregon is Cougar Country brochure ODFW has provided for us.
Here's the full text of the initial message sent to Ridgeview High families:
"Ridgeview was notified by Redmond Police Department that there was a report of a possible dog attacked by a cougar in the area close to Ridgeview earlier this morning.
"We have decided to place the school in “lockout” for the safety of students, staff and families while police search the area.
"Again, lockout means we lock all exterior doors and do not allow anyone to go outside of the building. Inside the building, classes resume as usual.
"In this situation, we will allow people to enter the building for safety reasons. We will keep you updated as the police search continues in the surrounding area."
Meanwhile, Redmond High went into lockout due to an unidentified "suspect" possibly being in the area, but that lockout was lifted about an hour after it began.
A short time later, this message went out to families of Redmond High School students:
"Hello Redmond High School families,
"We were just informed by Redmond Police Department of a possible threat near Redmond High School and have placed the school on “Lockout” for the safety of students and staff. “Lockout” is when we lock all exterior doors and do not allow anyone in or out of the building. Inside the building, classes continue as usual.
"Redmond Police Department is searching for a suspect in the neighborhood of Redmond High and will inform us when the threat is neutralized and it is safe to lift the “Lockout”. We will let you know when that has occurred."
Around 10 a.m., this update was sent:
"Hello Redmond High School families,
"Redmond Police Department has cleared the area and directed us to lift the “Lockout” at Redmond High School. We want to thank the Redmond Police Department for their quick response.