The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODF&W) says they are investigating reports that a cougar has been active in the vicinity of the Linear Trail near Vernonia.
“We are currently in information gathering mode at this point,” said Rick Swart, ODF&W’s Regional Spokesman, during a recent phone conversation. “At this point we have not yet been on the site.”
According to Swart, ODF&W has heard that several people have reported seeing a Cougar along the Linear Trail, although Swart says ODF&W has not received any official reports of these sightings themselves. “We’ve heard but not yet confirmed that there are some trail cam photos of this animal and we’re real interested in getting a hold of those, if they do, in fact, actually exist.”
Swart said one of the deciding factors that will prompt a site visit by ODF&W is whether local police request them to provide assistance. “They [local law enforcement] would be the lead as far as the public safety aspect of this situation,” said Swart. “If they deem that there is an issue then we would provide them with technical support. We could come out but we’re not there yet.”
Swart said his agency is continuing to gather information and encouraged anyone with actual evidence that a lion is in the vicinity to report it to the local police and to ODF&W.
Swart said that ODF&W might consider sending their District Biologist from Sauvie Island to investigate if more proof that a lion is in the area is brought forward.
“We have to treat every one of these reports seriously,” said Swart.
If you live in cougar country
• Learn your neighborhood. Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer 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 necessary.
• Remove heavy brush from near the house and play areas.
• Install motion-activated light outdoors along walkways and driveways.
• Be more cautious at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.
• Do not feed any 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.
• Fence and shelter livestock. Move them to sheds or barns at night.
If You Recreate in Cougar Country
• Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
• Leave your dog at home or keep it on a leash. Pets running free may lead a cougar back to you.
• Hike in groups. Make noise to alert wildlife of your presence.
• Keep children close to you. Teach them about wildlife.
• Keep campsites clean. Sleep 100 yards from cooking areas.
• Store food in animal-proof containers.
• Carry deterrent spray.
• Be cautious at dusk and dawn.
• Never feed any wildlife. Prey attracts predators.
• Do not approach any wildlife; stay at least 100 yards away.
• Steer clear of baby wildlife. Mother is likely nearby.
• Be alert when sitting quietly or stopping to rest.
• Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.
• Be aware that animal calls and animal kills can attract a cougar.
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.
• If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any items available.