Spotting four cougars walking near town would unnerve just about anyone. A trail-cam photo from the Shady Cove area shows what appears to be four very healthy cougars walking on a trail along Old Ferry Road. This area is quite close to homes and is frequented by joggers and families. The photo, posted on Facebook, was snapped by a Wildgame Innovation camera on November 12 at 7:00 – well after dark.
This is of course, no new occurrence in southern Oregon. The fact that we’ve carved out communities in prime wildlife habitat means we see a good number of deer, turkeys, skunks and raccoons in town, but also predators like foxes, bears, coyotes and cougars. It’s important to remember that with a little effort on our part – since, after all, we moved into their space – we can coexist.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that there are roughly 6,000 cougars in the state. A cougar’s natural behavior is avoid human contact. They generally hunt solo through a territorial range of up to 100 miles. The exception to this is for a mother and her kittens. Jen Osburn Eliot, a Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist and current manager of Wildlife Images’ Clinic, believes three of the cougars in the trail cam photo are under two years old. “I would guess that this is likely a female cougar with her three cubs from this year. Seeing that she has three cubs and not just one or two, indicates that she has a plentiful food source in her area and is likely a very good mom,” explained Osburn Eliot.
Kitten or not, cougars are still a predator and their presence close to town should be taken seriously. Being a wild animal and elusive by nature, a cougar in town most likely indicates that preventative actions were not taken by individuals or a community. A major reason this happens is because the predators are following prey right into areas with people.
“This is one of the many reasons that we recommend that people do not feed wildlife. Many people enjoy feeding deer/squirrels in their yards but by showing those prey species that they have a constant food source in your yard means that, in turn, the large predators also have a constant food source. It is safer for the animals and safer for you to observe from a distance but do not feed the animals and bring them closer to humans.”
ODFW shares these common tips for living 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.
ODFW shares this advice 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, bear or pepper spray, tools or any items available.