Wildlife officials euthanized three cougars earlier this month after the cats killed livestock belonging to multiple homeowners, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife official said.
A resident on Jeffrey Road in Monmouth called ODFW on Feb. 16 because one of her goats had been killed by a cougar, said wildlife biologist Nancy Taylor. ODFW officials referred the resident to the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. A federal trapper then captured and euthanized an adult and two juvenile cougars, Taylor said.
A resident on nearby Military Road had called a federal trapper to their property a week earlier after presumably the same cougars killed several of his sheep, ODFW learned. The trapper was unable to catch the cougars then. One of the man’s neighbors had called ODFW expressing concern for her sheep when she realized the trapper hadn’t caught the cougars.
“Frankly, the landowners in the area that have livestock are relieved,” Taylor said.
Oregon law allows homeowners to kill a cougar if the cat attacks their livestock. The statute also allows for a cougar to be killed if it threatens human safety, breaks into a residence, attacks a pet or displays a general loss of wariness of humans.
Taylor said there is a specific set of criteria for when and if a cougar can be caught. She said the livestock carcass must still be on the property and must be fresh. If the cougar is still in the area, it may return for the carcass. In order to capture a cougar, homeowners must call ODFW promptly if they discover their livestock has been attacked, Taylor said.
She said homeowners can kill the cougar themselves if they see the animal return to the livestock carcass at night. The cougar must be turned into ODFW to be evaluated, Taylor said.
Taylor said the owner of the property where the three cougars were euthanized was allowed to keep the meat, skull and hide of the cats after being evaluated by ODFW.
Taylor said a trapped cougar cannot be transported elsewhere for release “because it’ll cause damage somewhere else.”
To keep cougars away from livestock, Taylor suggested landowners heighten and reinforce their fences and put livestock inside at night while cougars are hunting. She also said homeowners should not feed any wildlife, such as deer and turkeys, as they could attract cougars.
Taylor said the killing of cougars for attacking livestock is common. She said ODFW examines cougars killed by homeowners or trappers in Polk, Benton or Linn counties nearly every week.
According to ODFW, statewide cougar populations are healthy and increasing.