Bend police and officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed a 135-pound cougar Feb. 9 in southwest Bend. They’ve been criticized since, particularly by those who argue the animal should have been sedated and moved elsewhere.
A cougar is not a bothersome deer, however, and there were good reasons for killing the animal.
Officials had known for more than a month that a cougar was in the area, according to ODFW’s Michelle Dennehy. That’s not unusual, she says; there are reports of cougars in and around Bend nearly every week. ODFW keeps an eye on the animals, and generally, the big cats move on.
The one killed Saturday did not. Instead, in the last few days before it died, it began hunting in neighborhoods along the Deschutes River Canyon, on city streets and near two elementary schools and a day care facility in the area. It had, Dennehy says, lost its fear of humans and was becoming bolder. That’s a dangerous proposition.
And, in such circumstances, the agency’s policy is to kill the animal rather than move it. There are good reasons for that. An animal that’s moved may make its way back to its original location, for one thing. If that doesn’t happen, it may well move into a different community and continue the behavior that made it dangerous in the first place. There are also worries about an animal spreading disease from one area to another, but those are secondary to worries about public safety.
Killing wildlife that’s become dangerous to the humans who share the landscape seems harsh to some, and perhaps that’s understandable. But public safety should be the priority.