Cougar sightings in LO, West Linn spark public concern
A series of cougar sightings in the Lake Oswego and West Linn areas over the past several weeks have neighbors discussing the safety of their children, pets and homes, particularly in areas that have developed next to large forested and heavily vegetated greenspaces.
According to several media reports last week, a cougar was caught on surveillance camera outside of a home in Southwest Portland's Dunthorpe neighborhood, and just a couple days later a Wilson High School cross country athlete reported a separate, unconfirmed sighting in nearby Tryon Creek State Park on Lake Oswego's northern border.
Posts in community groups on Facebook and to the neighborhood social media site Nextdoor show photos of a cougar on a surveillance camera in the Stafford area just outside of West Linn.
While these sightings can cause some residents to worry about their safety, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Kurt Licence advises folks that these sightings are to be expected for a number of reasons.
"I don't think it's a coincidence, and I think there are a number of factors playing into the increase of observations," Licence told The Review. "Some of that being we do know that the cougar population is growing, albeit not super quickly. Human population is doing the same thing, so it's natural that there would be these observations between wildlands and more urban settings."
According to Licence, the proliferation of high-tech video surveillance equipment and trail cameras over the past 5-10 years, with costs for these technologies coming down, has proved fruitful in capturing sightings of these big cats as they prowl suburban areas near their natural habitat.
Licence also points out that all of these areas have a high population of deer, a primary target for these types of cats.
"I imagine that we're only going to get more and more sightings as time goes on because there's just going to be more and more eyes out there," Licence said.
It's a double-edged sword of living in a place with lots of wildlife, and being accepting of these cougar's presence — when appropriate — is something the public needs to understand in order in order to ease concerns.
ODFW has many brochures on how to live in harmony with our natural environment and the animals that might inhabit it.
A few of those suggestions include removing heavy brush from near the house and any play areas, installing motion-activated lights outdoors along walkways and driveways, being more cautious at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active, not feeding any wildlife, and feeding pets inside — by attracting other wildlife with food, you may catch the attention of a cougar.
Keep areas around bird feeders clean, and deer-proof your garden and yard with nets, lights and fencing. Fence and shelter livestock or move them to sheds or barns at night. If you encounter a cougar, do not run as this could provoke them to chase. ODFW advises you pickup pets and small children, and try to make yourself look bigger by standing up straight and holding your jacket or other clothing items out away from your body.
ODFW reminds the public to report any cougar sightings they encounter to them.
"One of the big things about living in areas like this that I always try to put out to everyone is just to be aware of your surroundings. These animals have been around for a long time, and we're sharing this space," Licence said. "The better we learn to live with them, the better off we will all be."
For more information on living with cougars in the area, visit ODFW's website at www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.