Photo: Tamara Swanson
Early Wednesday evening, a Silverton resident took a photo of what appears to be a sub-adult cougar at The Oregon Garden (photo attached with credit info below). ODFW and USDA Wildlife Services responded yesterday and located the cougar in the area near where the photo was taken but were not successful in their attempts to capture it. The cougar was last seen near a service entrance gate and may have left the fenced portion of The Oregon Garden. Today, USDA Wildlife Services returned to The Oregon Garden and also attempted to locate the cougar but were not successful. (The Oregon Garden was closed yesterday while attempts were made to capture the cougar but has since reopened.)
After contacting the Silverton Police Department later that day, ODFW received another photo taken by a different Silverton resident late morning on Thursday showing a cougar in their backyard. This cougar appears to be older than the one seen at The Oregon Garden.
In late February, another Silverton resident saw a cougar attack and kill a deer in their yard and later collected trail camera photos of the cougar returning to the deer carcass. Efforts to capture this cougar were not successful, but it is unknown if this is one of the same cougars now being seen in Silverton.
Cougar sightings have been increasing in the Silverton area over the last ten years (though not all sightings have been confirmed as cougars). This is in keeping with an increasing trend of sightings throughout northwest Oregon.
While Oregon's cougar population has grown from a low of around 200 in the 1960s to an estimated 6,000+ today, encounters between people and cougars are rare and there has never been a confirmed attack by a wild cougar on a person in Oregon.
"Silverton residents need not be alarmed, but it's a good idea to take some common sense precautions after all the recent cougar sightings in the area," said Don VandeBergh, ODFW district wildlife biologist. "Feeding your pets indoors and keeping them in at night are some simple things you can do to avoid a conflict." For more tips on living with cougars, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp
Residents who see a cougar in town should call the Silverton Police Department Dispatch Center at (503) 982-2340 or Oregon State Police at (503) 731-3030.