Cougars are native to Oregon and an important part of the local environment. However, they are known as fierce and territorial creatures, says Phillip Elden. It is only through education, awareness, and diligence that humans can safely and humanely cohabitate with these large cat-like creatures.
Q: How many cougars currently live in Oregon?
Phillip Elden: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that there is greater than 5,000 cougars living in the state. They are most common in the Blue Mountains, Cascade Mountains, and the northeastern part of the state.
Q: Do cougars have distinct features that make identification possible?
Phillip Elden: Cougars, also referred to as mountain lions, are larger than bobcats and have a tail that is roughly a third of their total length. These felines have a consistent tan to yellowish-brown color. Their tracks are similar to a dog’s but usually do not leave behind claw markings.
Q: What are some ways to prevent a cougar from frequenting my yard?
Phillip Elden: Cougars are mostly night-hunters and most active at dusk and dawn. Pets and livestock should be kept indoors at night as should their related food. Keep bird feeders clean and use animal-proof waste cans outdoors. Cougars are attracted to other wildlife, so make sure gardens are secure to deter deer. Install motion-activated lighting and remove heavy brush from near the home and areas where children might play.
Q: Is it safe to camp or spend the day in areas where cougars are known to live?
Phillip Elden: While no one can predict when a cougar may make itself known, sightings are rare. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to be aware of your surrounding at all times and stay in groups, if possible. Campers should pitch their tents at least 100 yards away from food preparation areas and carry deterrent spray. If a cougar approaches, pick children up while facing the animal, keeping your back straight; hold the animal’s gaze. Above all, do not run as this triggers a prey instinct in cougars and they will likely attack.