THE DALLES, Ore. — A two-year-old male cougar has been euthanized after it took up residence in a hotel complex in The Dalles, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Police responded around 9:30 a.m. today, March 20 to the Oregon Motor Motel in downtown, after callers reported a wild animal in the complex. The cougar had settled into a room that was under construction, located down a narrow walkway.
When the ODFW arrived, they accessed the room through a wall vent, and shot the cougar with a dart gun. The darts contained powerful sedatives intended to incapacitate the big animal.
With the cougar stunned, ODFW staff transported it off-site and euthanized it.
“Considering this cougar’s concerning behavior, it was deemed a public safety risk not suitable for relocation, and so it was euthanized,” said Jeremy Thompson, ODFW district wildlife biologist.
The cougar was apparently sighted near the hotel on the evening of March 18, which someone shared in a Facebook post.
According to the ODFW, cougar sightings are not uncommon around The Dalles, especially when deer are out in numbers just outside the city. “But a cougar coming this far into downtown, into the business district and deep into a hotel complex, and not showing fear of people or wariness of urban environments? That’s just extremely odd,” said Thompson.
Oregon’s cougar management policy and state statutes specify certain behaviors as a public safety risk—attempting to break into a residence and showing no wariness of humans are among them.
The ODFW does not relocate cougars that display these and other specific behaviors. If relocated, they are likely to return to habitable areas and repeat the same behavior.
Oregon has a cougar population that is considered “healthy,” with about 6,400 statewide. In the 1960s there were only 200. Because cougars are exceptionally territorial, their population alone may drive some cougars to urban areas in an attempt to establish new territory.
“This may have been a cougar that was unable to establish its own home range in its natural habitat,” said Thompson.
The ODFW reports that this is the sixth cougar to be euthanized in 2018 due to public safety concerns.