Photo: ODFW File
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff and partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services this morning captured and killed a female cougar suspected to have been involved in an encounter with a someone running along trails in Oregon State University’s Dunn forest Saturday morning, Aug. 31.
The Dunn Forest is located west of Corvallis.
Specially trained hounds picked up the cougar’s scent about one-quarter mile from where the incident involving the runner and the cougar occurred. Trackers, working with hounds to follow the scent, tracked the cougar from Dunn Forest onto adjacent property where the cougar was treed after access permission was obtained by the landowner. The cougar fit the description provided by the runner, who said the cougar was narrow in build, but not emaciated. The cougar was shot at approximately 9:45 a.m.
The cougar’s carcass is being transported to a laboratory within OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine for examination. The female cougar weighed 75 pounds and is estimated to be 1-2 years old. She was not lactating and has not previously nursed kittens.
Dunn Forest is now reopened to public use. OSU will keep signs about what to do if you encounter a cougar posted in the Dunn Forest and reminds users to remain vigilant.
ODFW and partners had been working to find the cougar since the encounter was reported on Saturday morning. A runner reported that a cougar with its ears down (a sign of aggression) had approached him despite his attempts to scare the animal away. The runner followed recommended actions by yelling, making himself look larger and then fighting back by kicking the cougar when it got very close. After he kicked the cougar, the animal retreated into the brush, but the cougar then reemerged and began chasing after him when he began running from the area. He reported that the cougar followed him until two hikers with a dog arrived on the scene which caused the cougar to leave. The runner was not injured by the cougar but did suffer from minor scrapes and cuts after tripping while running away.
ODFW considered the cougar a threat to human safety based on its aggressive behavior (approaching the runner so closely) and as a result, ODFW and partners immediately began a search for the cougar. Beginning Saturday and each morning since, specially trained hounds have searched for cougar scent in the Dunn Forest area near the location of the encounter. Dry conditions made it difficult for them to pick up a strong scent, until today. Call boxes (which emit the sound of a distressed animal and can attract a cougar) and foot-hold traps and snares were also deployed but without success. All this equipment has now been removed from Dunn Forest.
“We believe this aggressive cougar was captured and put down today,” said Brian Wolfer, ODFW watershed manager. “Cougars are territorial so few cougars will use the same area. The fact that the cougar was caught so close to the site of the encounter is another indication it is the correct cougar. Finally, the cougar killed fits the description provided by the runner.”
“The agency’s priority is human safety. We will not relocate a cougar that has shown aggressive behavior,” Wolfer continued. “Cougars typically avoid humans, so for the cougar to approach so close that the runner was able to kick it makes it a clear human safety threat.”
Dunn Forest provides good cougar habitat, and other cougars can be expected to occupy the area. Runners and other users of Dunn and McDonald Forests should remain aware of their surroundings and familiarize themselves with tips on what to do if a cougar is encountered. Bear spray or air horns are also good options for deterring cougars.
Oregon State University would like to remind visitors that firearms are not allowed on the Research Forests per OSU policy, except for permitted hunting purposes.
"It is rare for outdoor recreationists to have a problem with an aggressive cougar,” said Wolfer. “This situation is a good reminder for people to be aware of what to do during a cougar encounter.”