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Cougar found in downtown hotel in The Dalles

THE DALLES, Ore. — A two-year-old male cougar that travelled all the way into downtown The Dalles and into a hotel complex was euthanized today after wildlife managers determined it was a public safety risk.

At 9:30 a.m. today, City of The Dalles Police responded to an incident at the Oregon Motor Motel downtown after reports of a wild animal within the complex. The animal was in a room under construction down a narrow walkway.

ODFW arrived at the scene at 9:45 a.m. The cougar was secured in a small room and ODFW was able to access the room through a vent in the wall. Staff sedated the animal with drugs administered via dart gun, and then transported the cougar off-site and euthanized it in a safe location.

The cougar had been spotted at this same location on March 18 in the evening, according to a Facebook post seen by ODFW staff.

Cougar sightings are not uncommon in the outskirts of The Dalles, especially this time of year when deer are on winter range just outside the city. “But a cougar coming this far into downtown, into the business district and deep into a hotel complex, and not showing fear of people or wariness of urban environments? That’s just extremely odd,” said Jeremy Thompson, ODFW district wildlife biologist. “This may have been a cougar that was unable to establish its own home range in its natural habitat.”

“Considering this cougar’s concerning behavior, it was deemed a public safety risk not suitable for relocation, and so it was euthanized,” said Thompson.

According to ODFW’s current records, today’s incident marks the sixth time in 2018 that a cougar has been euthanized due to public safety concerns. (A Silverton cougar was euthanized over the weekend.)

Under the state’s cougar management policy and state statutes, specific behaviors indicate that a cougar is a public safety risk. Those behaviors include attempting to break into a residence/structure and showing loss of wariness of humans.

ODFW does not relocate cougars that display these behaviors or cause agricultural damage. Cougars that have shown these behaviors and are relocated are likely to return to where they were causing problems in the first place and repeat the same behaviors, or repeat them in their new habitat. Further, because cougars are territorial, relocating cougars to new habitat can lead to conflict with other already established cougars, resulting in an animal’s injury or death.

Oregon has a healthy cougar population of approximately 6,400 statewide, up from just 200 in the 1960s when they were reclassified as a game mammal and protected in Oregon. Cougars, especially males, are extremely territorial. The need of some cougars to establish a home range could be driving them into urban and suburban areas.

For more information on cougars, including tips for coexisting, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/cougars.asp.