NEAR MOUNT HOOD, Ore. (KOIN) — Teams with dogs trained to track cougars found no sign of the cougar suspected of killing hiker Diana Bober during the first day of searching on the Hunchback Trail.
Bober, 55, was last heard from August 29. Her body was found Monday and the medical examiner ruled she died from what wounds consistent with an attack by a cougar.
Search teams covered about 9 miles Thursday but found no sign or scent of cougars. They will continue and expand the search on Friday.
Cougars are smart, secretive and solitary hunters who normally avoid human contact. Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said this attack is unprecedented and they don’t know why a cougar would have attacked Bober.
“We’ve never had a cougar kill a human being in the wild,” Rick Swart with ODFW said.
ODFW is leading the search to find and kill the cougar responsible. They said they can’t just use tranquilizers because it doesn’t immediately stop a cougar, and could put their crews at risk.
“Hunting cougars is a very difficult proposition under the best of circumstances and these are not the best of circumstances,” Swart said.
A team with four dogs and two mules are searching the Hunchback Trail area, which is rugged, steep terrain.
“We calculate that’s roughly a 7-mile path they’re tracking,” Swart said. “It’s going to be a long day.”
ODFW watershed manager Brian 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 Wednesday.
Wolfer also 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.
“We’re not up there indiscriminately killing cougars,” Swart said. “We have some very skilled, some very highly trained trackers that have started in a strategic location and are moving strategically to track the cougar — the offending cougar.”
Swart said they want to kill the cougar that killed Bober because if it’s capable of killing one human, it could kill another.
“It’s a public safety concern,” Swart said.
Officials have closed more than 21,000 acres of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and 8,214 acres of non-wilderness and 14 trails.