Cougar Encounter: Dunn Forest Still Closed

Dunn Forest continues to be closed while an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife team search for a cougar that was aggressive towards a runner over the weekend. McDonald Forest remain open.

Peter Idema, 68, was in the Dunn Forest for a Saturday morning run when he was approached by the cougar.

“I’m screaming, and trying to make myself large – all the things you’re supposed to do when you have a mountain lion coming,” Idema told OPB. “And it just kept coming. It got right up to me, ears back.”

According to OPB, Idema says he delivered a forceful kick to the cougar’s face, briefly sending the animal scampering into the bushes before it, once again, began to chase him down a hill.

“It wasn’t behaving like it should have behaved. It had plenty of chance to leave,” Idema said. “And it just kept coming and coming.” Finally, the mountain lion broke off the encounter when it spotted a couple and their dog hiking up the hill.

Michelle Dennehy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the current dry temperatures mask the cougar’s scent, making it difficult to track.

Oregon has more than 6,000 cougars in its forests. Still, Dennehy told OPB she considers incidents like this to be rare.

“Usually, you’re not going to see a cougar,” she said. “It’s certainly not going to get as close to you as it did to this jogger.”

Dennehy says an aggressive cougar like this would be euthanized if it can be tracked down.. If the cat cannot be found after a few days of searching, ODFW would consider it safe to assume it wandered off to another area.

Cougar Encounter Do’s and Don’ts

  • Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
  • Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.
  • Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it on a rock or stump. If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.
  • Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
  • Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.
  • If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, or backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
  • If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing—even bare hands. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake. Pepper spray in the cougar’s face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.

Finally, According to the Mountain Lion Foundation there have been less than two dozen fatalities from cougars in the last 100 years. Putting that in perspective, the National Weather Service reports an average of 49 deaths by lightening strike per year. So, if you do encounter a cougar, they’re probably going to quickly run off, so when you’re done freaking out, appreciate you saw one in the wild.

By Andy Thompson