What to do in a cougar encounter

• Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.

• Stay calm and stand your ground.

• Maintain direct eye contact.

• Pick up children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.

• Raise your voice and speak firmly.

• Back away slowly.

• Do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.

• If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms or pull a jacket over your head to make yourself look larger. Clap your hands.

• It is unusual, but if a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any items available.

Source: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

One day after reported sightings of an adult cougar inside Bend city limits, some users of the Deschutes River trail were optimistic about the possibility of encountering a big cat.

“I’ve actually been hoping to see one,” said Ron Kaiser, Bend resident for a year and a half.

Kaiser was out Wednesday afternoon walking the 3-mile loop in the Deschutes River Canyon area, one of Bend’s most popular and heavily ­trafficked foot paths on the south end of town. “They’re cats — in my opinion they don’t want to be around you. They want to run away.”

State wildlife officials and law enforcement Tuesday advised people to not use the trail system upstream from the Bill Healy Bridge on Reed Market Road.

Wednesday, warning signs were posted at both entrances to the loop.

But they didn’t appear to be deterring people from using the trail.

“If I see it, I’ll report it, but I ain’t worried about getting attacked by a cougar today,” said lifelong Bend resident Francisco Virgin.

The cougar, an adult of indeterminate sex, was spotted by a resident’s wildlife cam near the same spot ODFW officials killed a cougar in February after wildlife managers determined it posed a risk to people.

Allison Utterback was watching four children at a sandbar at Farewell Bend Park near the bridge. She hiked the trail earlier this week and said she felt safe, though she wouldn’t leave her kids unattended.

“There are so many other people around,” she said. “But I wouldn’t go by myself at dawn or dusk.”

Contacts between humans and cougars in Central Oregon are “stable,” according to ODFW spokeswoman ­Michelle Dennehy, though are increasing statewide, especially in northwest Oregon.

“We’re seeing more sightings in the most populated places, but that could be because there are more people,” she said.

Despite the low likelihood of a person experiencing a cougar attack, the state saw its first fatality last September when a woman was killed hiking on Mt. Hood.

Some trail users said they’d accepted the possibility of a cougar attack.

“Well, anything could happen to me,” said runner John Arzner. “An asteroid could hit me. That’s the way I look at it.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, gandrews@bendbulletin.com

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