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Tips for living where the wild things are posted on 12/01/2021

As the boundaries between rural and urban areas shrink, encounters and conflicts with wildlife become more common. Forest-dwelling communities know this particularly well. It’s a natural assumption that many wildlife species move in and around those communities, some more welcome than others.

Native to Oregon, cougars range throughout the state and the highest densities occur in the Blue Mountains in northeast Oregon and in the southwestern Cascade Mountains. Their primary food source is deer, but they will also consume elk, raccoons, beaver and other mammals and birds.

The number of cougar complaints in the Mount Hood area received by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) this year is on track to be well below average. While there is no recently documented increase in cougar populations around Mount Hood, it’s important to consider the factors that may contribute to the perception of more of these big cats in the area.

Over the last several years the use of trail cameras and home security cameras has increased. With eyes and ears open 24/7, these camera systems catch critters that would otherwise go undetected. The animals appearing on a doorbell camera have likely been around for quite a while, only now having their cover blown.

Seeing a cougar around your home can be unsettling if you weren’t aware of their presence before. However, sighting a cougar is not necessarily a cause for alarm and the good news is there are steps to help humans and wildlife coexist peacefully in spaces we share:

– Learn your neighborhood. Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer or elk concentrate.

– Walk pets during the day and keep them on a leash.

– Shelter pets and livestock indoors at night.

– Feed pets indoors.

– Don’t feed wildlife. Don't leave food and garbage outside.

– Use animal-proof garbage cans if necessary.

– Remove heavy brush from near the house and play areas.

– Install motion-activated lights along walkways and livestock/poultry enclosures.

– Be more cautious at dawn, dusk and nighttime when cougars are most active.

– Deer-proof your garden and yard with lights and fencing.

If you encounter a cougar, make yourself look big, spread your arms and make lots of noise. Cougars will often retreat if given the opportunity, so leave them a way to escape. Above all, don’t run. In the extremely unlikely event that you’re attacked, fight back and protect the back of your head and neck.

Following these precautions and staying alert outdoors can make our communities safer for humans and for wildlife.

Cougar concerns can be reported to your local ODFW office in Clackamas at 971-673-6000 during regular business hours or the Oregon State Police after regular business hours and for emergencies. For more information on living with cougars visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp.

By Beth Quillian/For the MT

Beth Quillian is a public information officer with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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