MEDFORD, Ore.– A cougar prowling the streets of Medford has been seen numerous times in the past couple weeks. This weekend, a sighting in a busy part of south Medford worried officials enough that they had to take action.
According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, it’s usually the last resort to kill an animal in an urbanized area. While officials say tranquilizing and relocating an animal can work some times, with cougars, it’s a different case.
“In cases where there’s a human safety issue in town, that cougar is going to be euthanized,” said Steve Niemela, district wildlife biologist at ODFW.
A single cougar has been roaming the south Medford area for the past week, raising flags with law enforcement and wildlife officials.
“The issue with this animal is that people were starting to see it multiple times which raises some red flags cause that could mean the animal is getting habituated, it’s getting used to being around people,” said Niemela.
Over the weekend, Medford police responded to a sighting near the Sovana Inn on East Barnett Road. Since the animal had been seen multiple times around the same area within city limits, police were given the green light to do what was necessary.
“That allowed, legally, for the animal to be removed and then Medford PD made the decision to remove that animal which we supported,” said Niemela.
According to ODFW, the cougar was a 100 pound male between the ages of two and four. While some on social media were frustrated with the killing of the cougar, the agency says relocation isn’t protocol.
“They can have a really good instinct for getting back to where they came from, so for those reasons we really don’t do any relocation for cougars,” he said.
It’s an unfortunate decision to have to make and wildlife officials understand people’s frustration. But when a predator like a cougar poses risks to the people around it, safety comes first.
“The first thing we try and do is to see if they are going to leave on their own. That’s everybody’s ideal situation,” said Niemela. “We don’t want to have to kill a cougar but when there’s an animal in the middle of town, it’s been seen multiple times, it’s staying in that area, it can be a human safety threat.”
ODFW says with summer coming around and more people going outdoors, if you ever come across a cougar, you should make yourself look big, look the animal in the eyes, and back away slowly. Never run.
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