WELCHES, OR (KPTV) - The first deadly cougar attack in the wild in Oregon, set off an expansive search for the cougar that killed Diana Bober, who was reported missing in late August.
Her body was found off the Hunchback Trail in the Mt. Hood National Forest, on Sept. 10, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
On Friday, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced their search crews found and killed a cougar, near where the hiker’s backpack was found.
Officials said it was an adult female and was not lactating, meaning it was not caring for kittens. But, they cannot yet confirm whether it is the same one responsible for Bober’s death.
At a press conference held Saturday morning, Brian Wolfer, who is leading the operation to find the cougar said this has been a tremendously emotional week for he and ODFW crews.
“As hard as this had been on our crews, and as hard as this has been on me, it pales in comparison to what they’re [Diana Bober’s family] going through and the loss they’ve had,” he said.
Before crews began their search on foot, ODFW established a communication logistics system, that Wolfer said, later paid off.
“We thought it was very important that we start at the actual site of the attack.” Wolfer added, “We tried to focus really hard on what we know about cougar biology.”
According to one specialist, the average Cougar’s range is 123 miles for adult males, less for females. That meant, there would be a large search area and the task was made even more difficult because of the rugged terrain.
“Our crews yesterday were pushed to the very extent of what they could do,” Wolfer said.
Wolfer told FOX 12, search crews placed cameras deep in the nearby woods, and Friday, they caught a break.
“[We] Started getting hits on those cell phone cameras, that showed a cougar walking through the attack site.”
According to Wolfer, hours later, a ground crew led by trained cougar hunting dogs, found the animal in a tree, and shot and killed it.
A measure some campers and hikers FOX 12 spoke with said was necessary.
“When I heard what happened I was shocked and sad,” Jerry Kimball said. “As much as I hate seeing animals die, sometimes It’s got to be done.”
However, others wonder if killing it was the only solution.
“I would think maybe there’d be an option to tranquilize the cougar,” Teva Brender, who stopped by the ZigZag Ranger station Saturday, during the ODFW press conference said. Still, Brender said he will defer to the experts.
ODFW spokeswoman, Michelle Dennehy, told FOX 12, “It is not feasible to bring equipment, personnel and facilities into that terrain for extracting or holding live cougars. There are no facilities or methods to humanely keep in captivity a wild cougar.”
According to her, getting into the search area required hiking or riding on horses or mules for several hours. And, she said, keeping a cougar sedated for the time it would take to get it out, would not have been safe for the animal, mules or personnel transporting the cougar.
Additionally, Dennehy said it is not ODFW policy to relocate cougars that have displayed aggressive actions toward a person, killed pets or have been seen repeatedly in daylight. According to her, all these behaviors are characterized as human safety concerns.
During Saturday’s press conference, Wolfer stood by the agency’s decision.
“A person lost their life here. Diana had people that loved her and are going to miss her and we have every responsibility to make sure no other family is going to go through that,” he said.
He said, after the cougar was killed, their priority became preserving evidence.
“The cougar’s carcass was placed in a body bag, sealed up, so we could avoid introducing any contamination.”
The cougar’s carcass was then flown to ODFW’s lab in Ashland, where it will undergo DNA testing, to determine if it was the same animal that killed Bober.
According to officials, it will take at least three days to receive the test results. Until they get confirmation they’ve killed the correct cougar, ODFW staff will continue to search for more cougars near the Hunchback Trail. However, Wolfer said, crews will rest Saturday.
And despite the outcome of Friday’s search, 13 trails will remain closed, for the time being. These include: Bonanza Trail, Boulder Ridge Trail, Cool Creek Trail, Dry Fir Trail, Eureka Peak Trail, Green Canyon Trail, Hunchback Trail, Jackpot Meadows Trail, Kinzel Lake Trail, Linney Creek Trail, Salmon River Trail, Salmon Butte Trail, and Veda Lake Trail.
For updates on when they will reopen, check here: www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/mthood/alerts-notices
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