Cougar sightings in the Pacific Northwest have increased due to the feline’s thriving population. Two separate mountain lion sightings were reported in Cannon Beach again on Monday, just weeks after another shut down the beach where experts believe the cougar was stranded on Oregon’s Haystack Rock. Another report comes from Olympic National Park in Washington state, where an 8-year-old girl survived a rare attack last weekend. Other sightings occurred in Portland-Metro residential areas, one in Tualatin and another in Troutdale.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reminds residents and visitors that cougar attacks a rare. However, the increased population of Pacific Northwest mountain lions and forest fires have forced these wild animals into residential areas, especially those near forested areas. As a result, these sightings will become more common.
Pacific Northwest Mountian Lion Data
Mountain lions are often referred to as pumas, panthers, and cougars. These large members of the feline family are native to North America. They are graceful predators who hunt their prey at night. Deer are their primary food source, but cougars also hunt elk, rabbits, rodents, birds, wild turkeys, raccoons, bighorn sheep, and other mammals.
According to A-Z Animals, cougars are solitary except when raising kittens. Their average lifespan is 8 to 13 years in the wild. They are about half the size of lions and can run up to 50 mph.
The cougar population in the Pacific Northwest is greater in Oregon than in Washington State, with over 6,000 in the former and about 1,500 in the latter. Population management also differs.
According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Mountain lions are considered game animals, and licenses are required to hunt them.
However, no permit is required if “a property owner or the owner’s immediate family, employee, or tenant may kill a cougar if it is damaging domestic animals.”
In Oregon, the mountain lion population has grown due to changes in hunting regulations. Pamplin Media Group reports, “The statewide population has nearly doubled since the 1990s when animal-friendly laws were established, limiting how many could be culled by hunters each year.”
According to the ODWF, “Hunting is open statewide under a general season all year or until zone quotas are met. Most cougars in Oregon are taken while hunters are out pursuing other species like deer or elk.”
What to Do If You See a Cougar
If a cougar is sighted, call the local Department of Fish and Wildlife or the state police. These big felines often retreat if given the opportunity. The ODFW recommends a person should leave the animal a way to escape. Also, stay calm, stand your ground, and maintain direct eye contact when encountering a mountain lion. Pick up children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.
Furthermore, back away slowly, do not run. Running triggers a chase response in mountain lions, possibly leading to an attack. If a cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands. Lastly, in the extremely rare event that a mountain lion attacks, fight back with rocks, bear or pepper spray, tools, or other available items.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Pamplin Media Group: Cougar sightings will be more common as population thrives in Oregon; By Christopher Keizur
KPTV Fox News: 8-Year-Old Survives Cougar Attack in Washington State National Park
KATU ABC News: Cougar Sightings in Troutdale Area, People Warned to Stay Alert and Safe
KGW 8 NBC News: Another Sighting: New Reports of Cougar Seen in Cannon Beach; By Daisy Caballero
A-Z Animals: Mountain Lion