ODFW kills cougar near Klamath park

After two weeks of sightings, a male cougar killing deer, stalking pets and scaring residents near Moore Park in Klamath Falls was euthanized over the weekend.

The cougar was first spotted around Monday, Sept. 11 at Moore Park and the Lynnewood residential area south of Upper Klamath Lake. Not long after, residents began spotting the cougar repeatedly during daylight hours as it traversed backyards in search of deer, occasionally stopping to stalk or harass dogs and cats.

Traps were set by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), but due to the cougar’s behavior continuously coming within close proximity of residences, once it was finally located it was decided to euthanize the predator rather than trap and relocate, officials said.

The cougar was located and killed Sept. 26 following a tip from a local landowner about its possible location.

The cougar’s first report was for several fawns killed in someone’s yard, the predator thereafter returning twice that same day to the resident’s porch. The cougar had been spotted roaming areas near Moore Park, Lynnewood and Lakeshore Drive. It had not been previously tagged or tracked by ODFW.

“When they show this type of behavior, it becomes a priority,” said Mike Moore, ODFW biologist. “When cougars show that they are becoming habituated to people and have a loss of wariness, it’s not a good candidate to tag and move.”

Following initial sightings ODFW staff reached out to local landowners and coordinated with Klamath Falls City Parks and law enforcement. Signs were posted warning people of a cougar in the area, and hikers were encouraged to travel with others for protection.

According to Moore, over the course of several weeks the cougar began spending more time in residents’ yards seeking out prey and leaving carcasses behind. Moore credited local residents and law enforcement for their assistance in tracking the cougar’s activities.

“The Klamath Falls outskirts are very wildlife-rich areas, and with a high amount of wildlife there is a greater chance of predators being around also,” added Moore. “Generally speaking this is a rare occurrence, most of the time if a cougar comes in the area it’s not a situation to be alarmed. It’s rare that they stay in an area and hunt in yards, this was a unique event, for the vast majority this isn’t common behavior.”

While far from the first sighting of predators in the Moore Park area, Moore believed that part of the reason for the cougar to make Moore Park its home is due to people feeding animals.

An abundance of animals in the area seeking out food due to people artificially providing food offerings could have lured the cougar away from its normal territory, according to Moore. He called the incident a great case study for abnormally high levels of prey animals.

Klamath Falls has a city ordinance in place restricting the feeding of animals for this specific purpose, and signage and fliers are available reinforcing that feeding animals can have negative consequences. Additionally, ODFW has a dedicated website detailing living with wildlife — important guidelines and safety measures for interaction with all kinds of wildlife species abundant in Oregon, including cougars.

While cougar sightings are rare and cougars rarely attacks humans unless provoked, there are safety precautions to consider if traveling in areas where cougars may be residing.

Cougars typically hunt four-legged animals such as deer, sheep and goats, so people should never crouch, bend-over or crawl in a way that would resemble the outline of a four-legged animal should a cougar be encountered.

Moore compared cougar behavior to that of house cats — they like to chase. Therefore, should a cougar be encountered a person should never run away as it will trigger a hunt instinct. Instead, raise arms to look large and slowly back away while making lots of noise, if the predator is given a path to escape it more often than not will vacate the area.

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