CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — It’s the story everyone is talking about… a Colorado man killing a cougar with his bare hands.
That’s after the 80 pound cougar attacked the jogger on Monday and investigators say he had no other choice, but to fight for his life.
It’s a scenario many in our region have feared as cougar sightings become more common.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says there are more than 6,000 cougars in Oregon and most of them are in our region.
If you ever stand face-to-face with a cougar, here’s what to do:
“To have the person defend themselves in this way is pretty dramatic… but very, very rare,” said Steve Niemala, ODFW.
Officials say the Colorado jogger was running by himself Monday when he heard a noise behind him. When he turned around, the 80 pound cougar attacked him.
After he was trapped by the cougar’s sharp teeth and claws, the man strangled the animal to death with his bare hands.
“The highest cougar density in the state of Oregon is right here in southwest Oregon,” said Niemala.
Although there’s only been one fatal cougar attack in Oregon’s history just last year near Mt. Hood, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
“We’re starting to get a lot and have for the last decade, human safety calls,” he said. “We have a lot of issues including pets being taken.”
Cougars have been spotted all over Jackson County, particularly in Ashland.
A deer carcass was discovered near a grade school, several big cats were spotted at SOU, and even in Medford, one was caught by security cameras.
“Stand your ground… look the cougar directly in the eyes… look as big as possible,” said Niemala.
He says if you encounter a cougar you should yell, scream, do whatever you can to show the cougar you’re not its prey.
“Back away slowly and try to give the cougar the opportunity to leave which more than likely, it will do,” Niemala said.
He says it’s essential you keep eye contact. If you run or turn your back on the cougar, you could look like prey.
But if that doesn’t work and you’re forced to fight for your life…
“Just scream, yell, hit the animal as hard as you can… and, you know, at that point that’s the best that you can do,” he said.
Niemela says cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare. But cougar sightings locally are not.
This fall they became so common that Ashland police started tracking sightings on a map on their website; there were two recent sightings last week alone.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.