Word of a hiker possibly killed by a cougar here in Oregon broke Sept. 11, and Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense is concerned the hype will lead to increased killing of the big cats, something that he says actually does more harm that good.
According to a press release from the Clackamas Country Sheriffs Office body of Diana Bober, 55, was found Sept. 10. She had been reported as missing Sept. 7 and had not been seen or heard from since Aug. 29. “According to the Medical Examiner’s Office, Ms. Bober’s injuries are consistent with a suspected cougar attack.”
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently searching for the cougar, near where her body was found at the Hunchback Trail in the Mount Hood National Forest in Welches, Oregon. The trailhead is closed.
On Sept. 13, “Two USDA Wildlife Services personnel rode mules for about 9 miles accompanied by four dogs trained to pick up cougar scent,” according to ODFW, but, “No scent or other recent cougar sign (tracks, scat, scratches) was detected in the area. Searchers also saw very few signs of cougar’s prey like deer.”
This is the first reported incident of a fatal wild cougar attack in Oregon. In November 2013, there was a fatal attack at an animal sanctuary.
Spates of reported cougar sightings are common in Eugene and Springfield, but rarely turn out to be an actual cougar. For example, in August after a cougar was killed in Springfield, a cougar print was reported at Laurelwood Golf Course and a newspaper carrier reported seeing what might have been a cougar run into the bushes near homes at Hendricks Hill Drive. ODFW investigated and found the alleged print was human made and the cougar sighting was likely not an actual cougar.
ODFW says there are about 6,600 cougars in Oregon. Fahy disputes that number and heavily criticizes what he sees as too much hunting of the big cats in the state, which he says actually could lead to attacks.
He says the “cougar population in state of Oregon is under constant stress from hunting — you can basically kill a cougar any time in the state and say, ‘It looked at me cross-eyed,’ or ‘it looked a my cow.’”
ODFW reports that 340 cougars have been killed as of Sept. 7, 128 of them by hunters, 212 non-hunters. And Fahy says that in 2017, 571 cougars were killed statewide.
He says that “Cougar hunters first of all really like the big toms and they are rare now. Most hunters don’t know if they are shooting a male or female. Aggressive hunting skews the population to very young animals and increases the likelihood of these rare incidents.”
Fahy says the claim, “We need to hunt cougars to control their population,” is not supported by science.
Of the hunt for the cougar that is believed to have killed Bober, Fahy says, “Killing a cougar almost two weeks after this tragedy would be tantamount to going to a neighborhood where there’s been a robbery and shooting people on the street that look suspicious.”
Fahy points out that the Mt. Hood area is heavily used by hikers due to its proximity to Portland. He says, “I feel horrible for the family. It’s tragic.” And he adds that he doubts Bober would have wanted this animal killed. “When we venture out into the wild, we take a risk.”