ASHLAND, Ore. — Several Ashland citizens have spotted cougars prowling through downtown lately, and the Ashland Police Department (APD) is warning people to be on the lookout and report those sightings promptly.
"There have been a couple of cougar sightings around Safeway and the downtown fire station over the last several days," APD said in a Facebook post. "If you see a cat please let the PD know so we can monitor the situation. The PD works closely with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in these situations."
There are more than 6,000 cougars in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Cougars are highly territorial and tend to hunt alone — with most of their activity taking place at night.
Wildlife officials believe that a cougar was responsible for the recent death of a hiker near Mt. Hood in spite of "inconclusive" DNA testing, and a cougar was also blamed for the death of a cyclist in Washington this year — fatal cases that have been unheard of for decades in both states, if not longer.
ODFW has the following guidelines for living in cougar country, or what you can do if you encounter a cougar:
If You Live in Cougar Country
- Learn your neighborhood. Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer or elk concentrate.
- Walk pets during the day and keep them on a leash.
- Keep pets indoors at dawn and dusk. Shelter them for the night.
- Feed pets indoors.
- Don't leave food and garbage outside.
- Use animal-proof garbage cans if necessary.
- Remove heavy brush from near the house and play areas.
- Install motion-activated light outdoors along walkways and driveways.
- Be more cautious at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.
- Do not feed any wildlife. By attracting other wildlife, you may attract a cougar.
- Keep areas around bird feeders clean.
- Deer-proof your garden and yard with nets, lights, fencing.
- Fence and shelter livestock. Move them to sheds or barns at night.
If You Encounter a Cougar
- 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.