Something has been stalking and killing the Barbour family’s animals and they and the Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife have reason to believe a cougar could be responsible for the deaths.
Bentley Barbour lives at 5254 York Hill Drive south of Hood River in a residential area sandwiched between the backside of the Hood River Golf Course and a large section of county forestland, not far from where the popular Post Canyon network of mountain bike trails are located. She lives with her husband, Chris, and their son and daughter, who are respectively in eighth and 11th grades.
Since 2002, Bentley says her family has raised two Jacob sheep and a Boer goat which were originally 4-H projects but ultimately turned into family pets after her children grew attached to the animals. The sheep and the goats are kept in a small, fenced pasture area not far from their house.
On Thursday of last week, the Barbours discovered the goat had disappeared, without any indication as to how it might have escaped from the fenced pasture. On Monday, when they went to go feed the sheep, only one of the two remained. Not long after, Bentley said her husband found the remains of the sheep about 10-15 feet from the house, noting that the carcass “had been picked very clean and neat, and had the legs still attached.” There also appeared to be no signs of a struggle and no wool snagged on the fence.
Bentley said she called The Dalles field office to report the incident, where an official asked her in great detail about the kill. She said she was asked a variety of questions, including about whether the entrails had been eaten, if the legs were still attached, or if the kill scene was messy.
According to Bentley, the official told her that “cougars keep things quite clean and tidy,” and that “cats don’t rip apart the legs.” She said wolves will often each rip off a leg and bury sometimes and that coyotes would eat the stomach and entrails, while cougars typically do not. She said she was also told cougars are quiet when they kill and would be able to leap over the Barbour’s 5-foot-high fence and snatch a sheep, while a coyote or a wolf would half to drag it along the fence, likely causing wool to snag.
While it can’t be confirmed it was a cougar, Bentley said the official informed her the signs were indicative of a cougar kill and advised her to find a new home for the now sole sheep, to keep their dogs inside the house at night, and to get outside floodlights to prevent further attacks. Bentley said she also informed her neighbors about the incident.
Bentley said the animals’ pens are right outside the bedroom windows of her children and added that her children grew up with the animals and like their parents, are saddened by the deaths of their pets.
“It’s upsetting for everyone,” Bentley said.