Cougar sightings: Sublimity residents should be aware & informed

November, 2016 Posted in Other

By Mary Owen

The Sublimity area has had three cougar sightings in the past year, most recently within the city limits in the 300 block of Northwest Melrose Street.

“The cougar was captured on a homeowner’s video surveillance system at 1:46 p.m. on Oct. 11,” said Sr. Deputy Tom Barber, who covers Sublimity for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. “The cougar appeared to be a young one, possibly a juvenile. The photo that captured the animal appeared to be on the front porch.”

Barber added it is not uncommon to have cougars in this area as “we live so close to the foothills of the mountains and the cougar population appears to be up.”

Chief Rich Sebens said the Stayton Police Department has not heard of any sightings recently, but cougars have been spotted at times, particularly on the east side of town.

“The Stayton Police Department regularly receives calls regarding people who see cougars in town,” he said, citing press release information from 2014. “Stayton has been a normal path for the cougars from the foothills of Silver Falls to the Santiam River for hundreds of years. This is a good reminder that we do live in an area where wild animals live among us.”

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon is home to more than 5,000 cougars or mountain lions. ODFW says while cougar sightings and encounters are rare, learning about the big cats is wise.

Native to Oregon, ODFW reports cougars are territorial animals and maintain home ranges of 100 miles. Most active at dawn and dusk, cougars are lone hunters. A cougar can be identified by its large size, cat-like appearance, consistent tan or tawny body color, and long tail. An adult cougar’s tail is nearly 3-feet long, a third to a half of its total length.

If you encounter a cougar, ODFW reports:

* Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.

* Stay calm, stand your ground, maintain direct eye contact and back away slowly.

* Pick up children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.

* Do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.

* Raise your voice and speak firmly.

* If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands.

* If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any items available.

When engaged in outdoor activities at which wild animals could be encountered, Sebens recommends hiking or running with a partner or in a group.

“Make noise so the animals know you are there, but don’t startle them,” he said. “Keep your distance. Don’t get between them and their young or food, and don’t try to feed them. If you do see a cougar, leave the area and present yourself in a way to appear larger than you are.”

He also suggests avoiding after-dark activities in the woods as cougars are more active at night.

Because of the recent sighting in Sublimity, Barber advises parents to make sure their children are supervised while playing outside.

“I would further advise citizens to remove any cat or dog food that they leave out for their pets,” he said. “It was odd in the last sighting that the cougar was prowling around in broad daylight since they are usually nocturnal predators.”

Barber asks people who spot a cougar to make a report to ODFW or local sheriff’s offices or police departments.

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