SWEET HOME — Sweet Home Police Department has responded to 10 cougar sightings within the city limits since July 1, and government trappers are investigating the possibility of setting out traps.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Nancy Taylor said some of the recent sightings near the 4100 block of Osage Street likely are the same mountain lion.
“At this point, we’ve had three daytime sightings since Friday. ... We are assuming it has lost its fear of humans,” Taylor said.
The latest sighting was at about 9:56 p.m. Wednesday, when a resident came across a cougar while walking.
The cougar, about 20 yards away, reportedly hissed at the person, but had disappeared into a wooded area of an old mill property by the time police arrived.
“This incident elevated concerns because the cougar didn’t immediately take off,” said Sweet Home Police Chief Jeff Lynn.
Taylor said the mountain lion likely was startled by the walker.
In another recent incident in the area, a cougar apparently was sleeping under the deck at a house, and ran off when it heard humans, Taylor said.
She added that she thought the big cat had grown up in close proximity to people.
If the cougar is trapped, ODFW policy directs the agency to kill such adult animals. Relocating the animal isn’t an option for the agency because then the animal’s dangerous behavior simply is transferred to another area.
Zoo facilities also generally only seek cougar kittens if they have room.
Lynn said cougar sightings have generally been isolated and sporadic in recent years.
“Apparently, it’s not very rare anymore,” he said.
In another recent sighting, from Sept. 11, a class of students at Foster Elementary School saw a cougar as it walked down a railroad right-of-way across the street from the school, Lynn said.
Cougar safety tips
• Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.
• Stay calm and stand your ground.
• Maintain direct eye contact.
• Pick up children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.
• Back away slowly, but do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.
• Raise your voice and speak firmly.
• If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands.
• In the event that a cougar attacks, fight back with whatever is available, including rocks, sticks or tools.
• Walk pets during the day and keep them on a leash.
• Feed pets indoors.
• Don’t leave food and garbage outside.
• Be more cautious at dawn and dusk, because that’s when cougars are most active.
• Do not feed any wildlife. Critters attract cougars.
• Be aware of places where deer or elk concentrate near your neighborhood.