Hiker killed by cougar, first in Oregon

    In this May 23, 2012, file photo, an approximately 2-year-old female cougar runs away from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trap after being released northeast of Arlington, Wash. (Mark Mulligan/The Daily Herald via AP, File)

    A Gresham hiker missing on Mt. Hood for nearly two weeks was likely attacked and killed by a cougar, the first known fatality in Oregon from a cougar attack.

    The body of Diana Bober, 55, was discovered Monday on a Mount Hood National Forest trail and a Tuesday autopsy confirmed she died of an apparent animal attack, police said in a press conference this afternoon.

    The wounds were consistent with a cougar attack, and DNA samples were sent today to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland for confirmation, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

    The Zigzag Ranger District trail where Bober’s body was found has been closed while the ODFW and members from other agencies search for the killing cougar, according to the ODFW.

    “We don’t believe the threat to the public that’s posed by cougars is any greater today than it was yesterday. However, we don’t know and can’t quantify the threat this particular animal may pose to the public,” said Brian Wolfer, the ODFW’s South Willamette watershed manager.

    Cougars are relatively secretive animals. Oregon’s latest population estimate done earlier this year puts their numbers at 6,600 statewide and across all age classes, according to the ODFW.

    Bober’s death from a cougar attack is the West’s first since May, when a mountain biker on a trail east of Seattle became Washington state’s first fatal cougar attack victim in that state in 94 years.

    Rick Hopkins, a cougar researcher and expert in San Jose, Calif., said there have been fewer than 30 fatal cougar attacks on humans in North America in the past 100 years.

    “They are very rare, horrific events,” Hopkins said.

    “There are 2 billion recreation days per year in cougar country in Northwestern America and Canada,” Hopkins said. “That puts in perspective how rare those statistics are.”

    While data from cougar attacks in North America is very limited, research has consistently shown that male cougars under age 2 are disproportionately more likely to attack a human compared to other age subsets, Hopkins said.

    “For as large a predator as a cougar is, it’s somewhat surprising that most attacks aren’t fatal,” he said.

    Hopkins said it will be extremely difficult for Oregon authorities to find the cougar responsible for the attack, largely because of the length of time since the attack on Bober, who disappeared Aug. 29.

    The cougar in question could easily have traveled 15 or more miles away, and there could be “15 to 18 cougars” within a 10-mile radius of where she was found, Hopkins said.

    “The question becomes, do you take the position that you’re going to kill everything you see in a 10-mile radius?” he said.

    Oregon has a year-round sport-hunting season on cougars, with 128 shot by hunters so far this year, ODFW statistics show. Another 212 were killed by non-hunters, and the agency has regional quotas for overall cougar deaths per year. The six regional quotas add up to 970 for 2018.

    Friends described Bober as an avid trekker drawn to the Northwest from her native Texas because of the outdoors.

    “She was an avid hiker,” friend Nikki George told The Associated Press. “That was her true love. She wanted to share it with others.”

    Her car had been found at the Zigzag Ranger Station on Saturday. Her body was found on the Hunchback Trail near Welches, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

    Experts say if you encounter a cougar in the wild, stay calm and stand your ground and maintain eye contact while giving the animal room to escape, according to the ODFW. Raise your voice and clap your hands, do not run and do not bend down. If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to appear bigger, according to the ODFW.

    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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