SILVERTON, Ore. (AP) — Oregon wildlife officials say they were forced to trap and euthanize a cougar after several reported sightings of the animals in and around the town of Silverton.
“The cougar was euthanized (last week) because it was considered a public safety risk,” Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. “That basically means they’ve killed livestock, pets or have been seen repeatedly in broad daylight.
“Cougars are normally afraid of people, and if they’re not, that indicates something isn’t right.”
Cougars are becoming a more common sight in towns such as Silverton, which are close to a forested area and food, such as deer, Dennehy said.
Oregon’s cougar population has rebounded from a low of around 200 animals in the late 1960s to more than 6,000 today, The Statesman Journal reported .
The euthanized cougar — which was a subadult cougar, or one having adult characteristics but is not yet sexually mature — led to the closure last Wednesday of The Oregon Garden, a botanical garden in Silverton.
A woman was walking through the wetlands area of the garden when she came across the subadult cougar, officials said.
Encounters between people and cougars are rare. There has never been a confirmed attack by a wild cougar on a person in Oregon, Dennehy said.
“Seeing more cougars is part of a larger trend, especially in northwest Oregon, but people don’t need to be alarmed,” Dennehy said. “Just consider keeping pets indoors at night. If you do encounter a cougar, make yourself look big and don’t run away from it.”
Cougars were hunted to almost extinction in Oregon until 1957, when they were reclassified as a game animal. Hunting cougars is still allowed, but it’s more restricted and there’s a closely monitored bag limit.
In 1994, Oregon voters outlawed hunting cougars with dogs.