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Cougars in Corvallis – again!

A young male cougar dubbed Wilson alarmed wildlife officials in the spring of 2009 because he seemed too comfortable around humans in the neighborhood near Wilson Elementary School. Several even took photos, such as this portrait, taken in a back yard at twilight. (Contributed photo)

The Corvallis Police Department is cautioning residents to be aware of cougars in the wake of at least three recent sightings.

In the past week, cougar sightings have been reported in both south and west Corvallis.

Lt. Cord Wood of the Corvallis Police Department said that on Saturday, a man on an early-morning run spotted a cougar near the paved bike path along the Willamette River, north of Southeast Shoreline Drive. Wood said the cat, which didn’t appear to be fully grown, ran off when it saw the person.

Another sighting, reported to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife within the past week, took place in south Corvallis near the wetlands that run between Southeast Midvale Drive and Centerpointe Drive.

A cougar also was reportedly seen in the area of Northwest Merrie Street, Northwest Lincoln Avenue and Northwest Fernwood Street.

There have not been any reports of cougars killing or harming domestic animals or humans in the area.

In spring of 2009, a young cougar was spotted several times in northwest Corvallis near Wilson Elementary School. ODFW tried to trap the cougar after it mauled a pet cat, but the traps were unsuccessful. When it seemed apparent that “Wilson” had moved farther west and was not a threat, the ODFW stopped trying to trap the cougar.

Wood said the department is releasing information about the latest sightings to alert residents, not alarm them.

“It’s just to remind them … those animals are out there, and they do frequent the riparian areas, like along the river and the ridge tops where the deer frequent,” he said. “It’s just to let people know the sightings have happened and to be aware when they’re out and about recreating.”

If you encounter a cougar:

• Remember the animals will retreat if given the opportunity. Always leave the animal a way to escape.

• Stay calm and stand your ground.

• Maintain direct eye contact.

• Back away slowly.

• 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 unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any other item available.

Other tips for cougar safety:

• Learn your neighborhood. Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer or elk congregate.

• Do not feed any wildlife. By attracting other wildlife you may attract a cougar.

• Don’t leave food or garbage outside.

• Keep areas around bird feeders clean.

• When hiking or camping, be aware of your surroundings at all times. Leave dogs at home or keep them leashed. Pets running free may lead a cougar back to you. Hike in groups and make noise to alert wildlife of your presence.

• Keep campsites clean and sleep 100 yards from cooking areas.

• Steer clear of baby wildlife. The mother is likely nearby.

Report any cougar sightings to the Corvallis Police Department, 541-766-6924, or to Nancy Taylor at the Corvallis ODFW office, 541-757-4186 ext. 226.

For more information regarding cougar sighting, encounters, and precautions contact Corvallis Animal Control Officer Michele Tracy at 541-766-6911.

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