Scary news for residents in and around The Dalles, Oregon: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently received a number of reports of cougar sightings in the area. From May 8-18, three cougars were spotted on the east side of town, near the hospital. The ODFW is asking locals to be on the lookout for cougars and call 911 if one is seen.
Jeremy Thompson, ODFW district biologist, considers the multiple sightings a bad sign.
“While there are no reports of a cougar killing pets or livestock in this area, for one to be seen multiple times during the day near residences is unusual for a cougar,” Thompson said in an ODFW press release. “We consider cougars that exhibit this kind of behavior to be human safety concerns.”
There is no recorded cougar attack on a human in Oregon, and experts say that encounters are quite rare. However, that doesn’t mean outdoor enthusiasts should be ignorant on how to behave if they run into one. Here are the best ways to handle a cougar encounter:
- Stay calm and stand your ground.
- Maintain direct eye contact.
- Back away slowly, but do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars and can lead to an attack.
- Raise your voice, speak firmly, and try to look as large as possible.
- Give the animal a way to escape. Most cougars will retreat if that is an option. They will almost always attack if they feel trapped and threatened.
- If a cougar does attack you, fight back with rocks, sticks, knives, or any other tool you may have on hand.
Find more Northwest wilderness safety tips.