No cougar scent or sign was detected Thursday by trackers in the field near the site where a cougar is believed to have killed Mt. Hood hiker Diana Bober.
The search began off the Hunchback Mountain Trailhead around 6:30 a.m. Two USDA Wildlife Services personnel rode mules for about 9 miles accompanied by four dogs trained to pick up cougar scent. No scent or other recent cougar sign (tracks, scat, scratches) was detected in the area. Searchers also saw very few signs of cougar’s prey like deer.
“It’s very important that we started our search at the site where Diana was found,” said Brian Wolfer, ODFW watershed manager who is leading the capture effort. “The cougar wasn’t there. Tomorrow we will expand our search into a new area.”
In addition, ODFW and other personnel are working to place more trail cameras into remote areas. They also encourage any local residents (ZigZag-Welches-Rhododendron area) with recent trail camera images of cougars (within past four weeks) or cougar sightings to contact ODFW’s Clackamas office at (971) 673-6000.
On Wednesday, efforts to set up a communications system that would work in the rugged area served the operations effort well, and searchers in remote areas have radio contact with ODFW and other state, federal and local personnel on the ground (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, OSP Fish and Wildlife).
Also Thursday, U.S. Forest Service announced a closure to protect public safety and to allow for search and capture operations to continue with minimal disturbance from people, which could compromise search efforts.
“This is big country,” said Wolfer. “The search may take some time and will be a fluid situation. We’ll continue to adjust our operation as necessary.”
Friday morning, crews will start to expand the search area but stay within a typical cougar home range distance of where Diana was attacked.