Cougar seen on prowl in Ashland

ASHLAND — City officials are warning residents and tourists to take precautions after a man walking his dog spotted a cougar feeding on a deer carcass on a Lithia Park trail at about 7 a.m. Friday.

"This is the fifth kill of a similar nature in the past few weeks, but the first in which a confirmed sighting was associated with a kill," said Ashland Parks and Recreation Department Director Don Robertson.

Not all of the recent kills within Lithia Park were deer. For example, a few turkeys were killed, he said.

The man walking his dog reported the cougar sighting to parks staff. An Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division trooper examined the remains of the deer and confirmed that it had been killed by a cougar, city officials said.

The cougar sighting occurred on a dirt trail that links the end of Pioneer Street near the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the parks department office in the middle of Lithia Park.

The area has significant residential neighborhoods on either side of the park.

City officials aren't sure whether the other dead animals recently found in Lithia Park were all killed by cougars, or other animals such as dogs, coyotes or bobcats, Robertson said.

"People need to be aware and alert when they're out there in Lithia Park. It is part of the forest interface, just like many homes in town," he said. "As we are approaching Memorial Day weekend, we thought the prudent thing was to let people know what they should do in Lithia Park."

Children and adults should not run away if they see a cougar.

"That will trigger the chase instinct in a cougar," Robertson said.

Anyone spotting a dead animal should leave the area immediately and contact the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-5211 and the Ashland Parks Department at 541-488-5340. Both numbers are monitored 24 hours a day, so callers should leave a message if a someone doesn't answer the phone in person.

If another dead animal is found, officials want to determine as quickly as possible whether it was killed by a cougar, Robertson said.

Dead animals should not be touched or moved in any way, city officials said.

Robertson said the cougar was spotted a few hundred yards away from the children's playground in Lithia Park, which is between the lower duck pond and the parks office.

Adults with small children should keep them close by so they can be picked up if needed, Robertson said.

"We believe it's safe in Lithia Park, but we also believe people should take precautions," he said.

Cougar sightings in and around Ashland are not rare.

In 2010, city officials warned people to use caution after getting reports of cougar sightings near the White Rabbit Trail in the Ashland Watershed. Also last year, a cougar killed a lamb on the northwest edge of town, 10 feet from the back door of a home.

In 2009, police shot and killed a cougar in a tree in an elderly man's backyard on Clay Street. Police were concerned that it didn't have an escape route through the populated neighborhood back into the forested hills above Ashland. Onlookers, including children, had also gathered near the site.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter with the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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