Authorities won't kill cougars without aggression

Two cougars seen in the east Medford hills Thursday night chasing deer and a raccoon while illuminated by police flashlights have not yet committed enough bad behavior to be killed, authorities say.

Four Medford police officers watched the cougars, estimated at less than 100 pounds each, chasing the other in-town wildlife about 10:30 p.m. along residential streets in the area of Hillcrest Road and Cherry Lane.

Initial complaints from residents placed the cougars in the area of Cherry Lane and Stanford Avenue. Officers discovered the animals several blocks away at Hillcrest Road and Mariposa Terrace.

"They were not at all concerned about the officers' presence," Medford police Sgt. Mark Boone said this morning. "That, obviously, shows a lack of concern for humans."

But it takes more than ignoring people and flashlights to reach human-safety thresholds required under state cougar-management rules for these animals to be killed, said Mark Vargas, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District wildlife biologist.

To trigger so-called "administrative removal" of a cougar, it must be seen among people repeatedly in the daytime or show aggressive behavior toward people, pets and livestock, Vargas said.

"Seeing a cat chase wildlife at nighttime — that's what these animals do," Vargas said.

ODFW biologists will keep tabs on these animals to document if their behavior escalates to the point where killing them becomes appropriate, Vargas said.

The ODFW has no policy for trapping and relocating offending cougars, because that would just push any behavioral problems into new environs, Vargas said.

Medford police today issued a neighborhood alert for area residents to be cautious and aware of the cougars' presence just as people plan to fire up barbecues for Labor Day weekend festivities.

— Mark Freeman

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