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Cougar shot and killed in Springfield was in fenced yard with kids

Heat may have played a role in driving the cougar into the urban area.

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 4:59 PM
Updated: Jul 25, 2018 12:04 AM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- The cougar that has been spotted around Springfield in recent days was shot and killed around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

It was killed one house south of the home where it was spotted just after 1 p.m. near 30th and Olympic streets. Police said the woman who initially spotted the cougar said it was in her fenced backyard stalking her kids who were playing in a swimming pool.

Police brought in a dog to track the cougar, who chased it up a tree where it was shot. Officers said the cougar then climbed into another tree where it was shot a second time and killed.

Police said they consulted Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and concluded the only safe option was to shoot and kill the 2-year-old, 70-pound female cougar.

The animal’s body was taken to ODFW for a necropsy to determine if the animal was driven to the area because it was sick or in search of prey. Police said they believe the female cougar was following another animal into the area and got disoriented.

Officers said the cougar’s daytime behavior was concerning for experts and they worried it may be feeding on pets or livestock. They also worried the sounds of the children playing attracted it to the pool.

Staff with Cascadia Wildlands said cougars and other wildlife often wander into city limits because of changes in weather. They said when sudden heat hits, water and other resources dry up for the cougar's prey, so when the prey wanders into town to find resources, the cougar follows.

Staff said this is usually a problem that resolves itself.

"When weather shifts, and prey shifts, and animals run into humans a little too much, they will just naturally move out of these areas," said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands.

In this case the cougar did not seem to want to leave on its own, leading police to euthanize it.

Wildlife experts with ODFW said earlier they would only euthanize the cougar if it became a threat. They said euthanizing a cougar is a better option than trapping and moving it because cougars are extremely territorial.

“You're going to cause conflicts amongst the [cougars],” said Christopher Yee, a biologist for ODFW. “It's going to affect more than one animal and you could end up resulting in that animal's mortality. So they are not a good animal to relocate.”

However, Cady said euthanizing a cougar causes more harm by allowing more cougars to move into the vacant territory.

“What you're doing is destabilizing a set animals home range, and that allows a few other animals to inhabit an area that was only occupied by one pair or one male,” Cady said.

Police said they are positive this is the same cougar that has been sighted across Springfield since Sunday.

ODFW officials said anyone who sees a cougar should stay calm and stand their ground. They said cougars will often retreat if they have a way to escape.

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