State wildlife officials have confirmed a cougar was seen shortly after midnight Wednesday in Bend’s Awbrey Butte neighborhood.

A homeowner on Northwest Hale Street reported seeing the cougar attacking a deer on the homeowner’s property. The homeowner was able to scare off the cougar as the deer ran away, according to Corey Heath, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Heath said fish and wildlife department officials searched the neighborhood during the day Wednesday and found cougar tracks, confirming a cougar was in the neighborhood.

The tracks appear to be from a juvenile cougar, Heath said Thursday.

“This appears to be a younger cat, a smaller cat,” Heath said. “It’s probably a cat kicked out by others and is figuring out life on its own.”

Because the cougar sighting occurred in a densely populated neighborhood, wildlife officials placed three warning signs near mailbox kiosks in the neighborhood. The signs advise people about what to do if they see a cougar: Stop and do not approach the cougar, remain calm, make noise, make yourself appear large and fight back if attacked.

Over the last couple of decades, more cougar sightings have been reported in Oregon, Heath said. But in that time, the cougar and human populations have increased, making sightings more likely, he said.

“It happens,” Heath said. “I won’t say it’s common, but it does occur periodically not only in Bend but throughout other towns in Oregon.”

In the past month, other close encounters with cougars were reported in Springfield and Ashland.

Springfield Police reported a female cougar had to be shot and killed June 24 after three days of sightings in an east Springfield neighborhood. One resident called the police to report the cougar was stalking children who were playing in a swimming pool.

On July 10, Ashland resident Lauren Taylor posted pictures and video to Facebook of a cougar sitting in her living room.

“This cat was drinking from our large fountain/pond that’s right at the back door before she came in,” Taylor wrote on her Facebook post. “The door was open and the room has huge plants & stairs built around real tree branches, so she likely didn’t even realize she was walking indoors until she was inside.”

The cougar eventually left her living room without incident, Taylor said.

Oregon is home to about 6,400 cougars, up from just 200 in the late 1960s when they were reclassified as a protected species, according to the state fish and wildlife department.

Cougars, especially males, are extremely territorial as they move throughout the state and maintain home ranges of up to 100 miles. Their highest populations are found in the Blue Mountains and in the southwestern Cascade Mountains.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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