A cougar roaming a neighborhood in northwest Bend was shot and killed Wednesday by Bend police.
The cougar was spotted multiple times during the day. The first call came at 10:17 a.m. when Bend Police Department officers responded to a cougar sighting in the area of Northwest Third Street and Portland Avenue. During their investigation, officers located a deer-kill site in the backyard of a home and warned neighbors of the incident.
At 8:20 p.m. on Wednesday police responded to a second cougar sighting in the area. The caller reported nearly hitting a cougar while driving. The caller said the cougar was crossing Northwest Saginaw Avenue. The emergency dispatch center received another call from a nearby area.
Police noted the cougar was in a heavily populated area where multiple people were walking their dogs. Officers located the cougar in the 500 block of Northwest Roanoke Avenue.
“The cougar was exhibiting behaviors consistent with being a public safety risk, including showing no fear of humans in extremely close proximity, hunting in a heavily populated area, and returning to the kill site,” according to the police report.
Upon the advice of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bend police set up a containment area and shot and killed the animal. ODFW then took possession of the cougar.
This is the fifth cougar killed by police this year after being spotted in residential areas in Deschutes County. An Oregon State Police trooper shot and killed a cougar that was acting aggressively toward two people in Deschutes River Woods in July.
Police shot and killed three cougars over one weekend in August after residents reported the animals near their homes in Bend and Sisters and authorities deemed them dangerous to the community.
This year, Deschutes County has experienced an increase in cougar sightings. As of September, there were 20 reports of cougars in the county, compared to 14 during the same time period a year ago.
Bend has experienced an increasing number of cougar sightings in recent years, particularly as the city grows and the human population pushes further into wilderness areas.
ODFW biologist Andrew Walch said there are several reasons why the number of cougar reports has been increasing. One is that more homes now have video doorbells and security cameras that capture the movements of nocturnal predators that would otherwise go unnoticed. Cougar numbers are also high, he said.
“Central Oregon is in natural cougar habitat, especially with the Deschutes River serving as a corridor for wildlife to travel into and out of Bend,” he said. “There are a lot of town deer and other wildlife that serve as prey species to attract an occasional cougar into town.”
Walch said most cougar encounters result in no action from ODFW, but occasionally there is a pattern of activity that becomes a human safety threat.
“The cougar (on Wednesday) had been actively hunting in a very densely populated neighborhood, amongst houses, and was located by the police along a sidewalk with dog walkers in the area,” said Walch. “This certainly meets the human safety threat threshold of the cougar management plan, and the Bend PD deemed it a safety threat as well.”
Walch added that ODFW’s cougar management plan does not allow a cougar that has been deemed a human safety threat to be captured and relocated. Putting one in a wildlife sanctuary is also not in the cards.
“There are no good options for placing an adult cougar in a captive facility,” said Walch. “Occasionally, we are able to find an accredited facility to take a cougar kitten that is orphaned, but there are no good placement options for an adult cougar.”
Oregon is home to more than 6,000 cougars, according to ODFW, a significant jump from the late 1960s, when the cougar population fell to around 200 individual animals. The public is advised to follow ODFW guidelines. These include not turning one’s back to the animal, appearing large and fighting back if attacked.