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home : current news : current news July 21, 2018

7/10/2018 1:03:00 PM
Cougar and bear visit Sisters
American Cougar…waiting. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
American Cougar…waiting. photo provided

By Jim Anderson

Quilters are not the only ones visiting Sisters this summer. Several reports indicate that our local apex predators have been dropping by, in and around town.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) there are more than 6,000 cougars, aka mountain lion, and 25,000 to 30,000 black bear running loose throughout Oregon.

One of each has recently turned up in Sisters, and others have been sighted nearby - which could mean conflicts with the fast-growing human population of Sisters Country.

Just days before the news of the in-town cougar sighting, a couple living in the eastern part of Sisters came upon two very fresh piles of bear scat in their back yard and called the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend to alert them to the new visitors.

Number-one on the list of prey for cougar are mule deer; for black bear it can be animals or plants - but either way it can lead to trouble in town if residents don't stay away from them (and not feed them).

The City of Sisters recently passed an ordinance making it illegal to feed mule deer anywhere within the city limits. Not only are the deer an annoyance, browsing homeowners' landscaping, but their concentrated numbers in town could attract their chief predator, cougar, which no one wants in their backyard.

Protecting humans from large wild predators - such as mountain lion and bear - is the main responsibility of ODFW, and this is what the department has to say about cougar:

"Native to Oregon, cougars range throughout the state, the highest densities occur in the Blue Mountains in the northeastern part of the state and in the southwestern Cascade Mountains.

"Their primary food source is deer, but they will also consume elk, raccoons, bighorn sheep, and other mammals and birds." (And humans, pets and livestock, if they can get away with it; author's note.)

"Cougars are territorial animals and maintain home ranges of up to 100 miles. Most active at dawn and dusk, they are lone hunters. They are generally solitary animals, except for mothers who remain with kittens for about two years.

"While actual cougar sightings have increased, coyotes, bobcats and dogs are often mistaken for cougars."

What ODFW does not state is that cougar run down their prey, usually leap on the victim's back and pull it to the ground, using their long, sharp, and powerful claws to hold the prey and their equally long, sharp and strong teeth to break bones, tear up flesh and rip out vital organs.

When that threatens to happen to a human being a great uproar goes up and the cougar is dispatched as quickly a possible. It is also destroyed if it's bothering and/or killing a human's pets and livestock - for a good reason.

Humans have been killed by cougar in California and in Washington. Wildlife biologists assert that you cannot outrun a cougar, on foot or on a bicycle.

Here's what ODFW suggests, on their website, should you come into contact with a cougar:

• Learn your neighborhood. Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer and/or elk concentrate.

• Walk pets during the day and keep them on a leash.

• Keep pets indoors at dawn and dusk. Shelter them for the night.

• Feed pets indoors.

• Don't leave food and garbage outside.

• Use animal-proof garbage cans if possible.

• Remove heavy brush from near the house and play areas.

• Install motion-activated lights outdoors along walkways and driveways.

• Be more cautious at dawn and dusk, when cougars are most active.

• Do not feed any large wildlife. By attracting other wildlife, you may attract a cougar.

• Keep areas around bird feeders clean.

• Deer-proof your garden and yard with nets, lights, fencing and/or motion-activated irrigation sprinklers.

• Fence and shelter livestock. Move them to sheds or barns at night.

If you encounter a cougar:

• Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.

• Stay calm and stand your ground.

• Maintain direct eye contact.

• Pick up 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 and shout.

• If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, bear or pepper spray, tools or any items available.

• Mountain-bikers should stay alert for cougar at all times. Do not try to outrun a cougar! Use your bike as a shield and weapon. Do not lose eye contact!

Report any contact with a wild predator to ODFW.

Warnings, advice and descriptions regarding contact with black bear and comparing them to grizzly bears are on the ODFW website: You can also acquire informational brochures at any ODFW district office, or write: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 4034 Fairview, Industrial Dr. SE, Salem, OR, 97302.

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