Cougar shout by state trapper in Bend, Oregon

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Cougar shot near Lava Butte

Published: January 4, 2002

By Anne Aurand, The Bend Bulletin



U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Specialist Jack Spencer kneels next to a trouble-making cougar that he shot Thursday near Deschutes River Woods. Spencer estimated the 4-year-old male weighed about 150 pounds.
Photo Pete Erickson / The Bulletin

Deschutes County Wildlife Specialist Jack Spencer — also known as the trapper — was breathing heavily as he hauled a dead cougar out from behind Lava Butte near Deschutes River Woods on Thursday.

“It’s a huge cat. He’s been eating cats,” he said between breaths over a sporadic cell phone connection as he packed the animal out.

A neighborhood man helping Spencer told him it had eaten some dogs in Deschutes River Woods, too.

Spencer said the big cat, which weighed about 150 pounds, had been spotted in the neighborhood three times Wednesday.

Pat Creedican, a resident of Deschutes River Woods, said he was getting ready for work at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday when he went outside to find out why his red heeler was barking furiously. He saw the cat and some 4ð-inch tracks leading down the middle of Riverwoods Drive.

“It was a lot bigger than my dog,” he said.

Creedican followed the cougar’s tracks, which led into the lava rocks abutting Deschutes River Woods. He could see where it jumped off a berm onto a wire fence and dented it.

Creedican then talked to some neighbors and discovered the cat had been seen more than once around the subdivision.

“It’d be different if we knew he was just passing through, but he’s been hanging around,” the Oregon Department of Transportation employee said.

He reported the cougar to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Someone from the department told Creedican to not to let his kids play outside alone in bushy areas or near rocky outcroppings.

“It starts to get a little more personal when you talk about your kids getting eaten,” he said.

The cat had disappeared into the caves and trees near Lava Butte, where Spencer and his hounds spent about a half hour tracking it before catching it in a tree.

Spencer said the cougar was his first kill since he started the job as wildlife specialist for Deschutes County this fall. Spencer was hired as the number of cougar sightings in Central Oregon increased.

His position is funded through a cooperative effort among Deschutes County, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Wildlife Services and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Deschutes County contributed $46,700 toward the new program this fiscal year.

Deschutes County residents Jeff and Tracy Boyer opposed the hiring of Spencer’s position because it mostly serves the livestock industry’s needs, Jeff said. But they both said they can support dealing with problem animals if they have been identified eating cats and dogs.

“Once they’re in the habit of eating animals, then you have a problem,” Jeff said.

Tracy Boyer said she hates to see a cougar killed at any time, but recognizes that it was probably a problem animal.

“It’d be nice if the animal could be relocated, but maybe that’s too cost prohibitive,” she said.

Brooks Fahy of the Predator Defense Institute in Eugene said it’s all too common that cougars get blamed for the work of coyotes, anti-freeze or BB guns.

“It burns me that a government agency is out there for free killing native species to protect people’s dogs and cats,” he said.

Wildlife specialist services are a government subsidy for ranchers to protect livestock, he said.

Cougar sightings around Bend are common, said Corey Heath, wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend. But it’s been several weeks since the last one, he said.

One was sighted last winter in Deschutes River Woods, he said.

Also about a year ago, an off-duty Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy used a handgun to shoot a 75-pound cougar in a cave that served as a play area for several children in southeast Bend.

During the winter, cougar follow the food — deer — to lower elevations where many subdivisions have been built.

Fahy said once a mountain lion starts showing itself or feeding on domestic animals, it’s likely injured or sick, and probably time to take that animal out.

But, he said, “I’d be angry with people just thinking they can let their dogs in and out unsupervised and expect (the cougar to be killed.) I keep mine in at night when most predation happens.”

Local fish and wildlife officials have said that cougar complaints or sightings have increased tremendously as the area’s population grows. Ten years ago there were one or two cougar complaints a year. In 1999, there were 23 bona fide complaints about predation on livestock in the Central Oregon region.

Fish and wildlife officials have said that cougars are not generally dangerous and that there has never been a confirmed cougar attack on a person in Oregon.


Anne Aurand can be reached at 541-383-0323 or aaurand@bendbulletin.com.
 


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