Animals

Crews to hunt for cougar involved in fatal attack

Dogs trained to pick up cougar scent will start their search Thursday

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife want to find the cougar they believe killed hiker Diana Bober off the Hunchback Trail near Mt. Hood.

An autopsy revealed Bober died from an animal attack and authorities believe it was a cougar. If so, this would be the first fatal cougar attack in the wild in Oregon. 

"This does have every indication that this is the first fatal attack of a human by a cougar in Oregon," said Brian Wolfer, ODFW watershed manager. "Every indication we have so far is that case."

In a press conference Wednesday, Wolfer said officials intend to kill any cougar they find in that area and then test its DNA to see if it's the same one that attacked Bober.

"We will not know for sure that we have the correct cougar until we get those samples," he said. 

He said they don't want to kill a large number of cougars, but males are usually territorial over 50-150 square mile areas so they hope to find the correct one. They will be "as humane as possible" when killing the cougar. 

Officials said because of Tuesday's rain, dogs trained to pick up a cougar's scent will start their part of the operation on Thursday. 

"The active attempts to capture the cougar, we fully expect to begin tomorrow morning," Wolfer said.

On Wednesday, officials are getting equipment ready, setting up cameras on trails and closing some areas to help with the search operation. 

The Hunchback Trail is closed from the trailhead and officials may close more areas during the search for safety reasons. It's steep terrain with cliffs and drop offs, so they don't want to encounter hikers along the way. 

Wolfer said there are an estimated 6,600 cougars in Oregon. 

KOIN 6 News will life stream a press conference about the search effort at 3 p.m. Wednesday. 

What to do if you encounter a cougar, according to the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife:

  • 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.

For more information on cougars in the state, click here. 

Watch: How to survive a cougar encounter 


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