Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Sheriff’s department officials discuss the search Wednesday on Lois Drive, while a school district employee runs the lawn mower on Westside Elementary grounds.
As of Friday, September 7, 2018
A cougar first spotted near Westside Elementary School Wednesday, or one like it, has been seen in other west Hood River locations as of Thursday.
A cougar was seen near Red Carpet Inn, on West Cascade, at 2 a.m. Thursday morning and just south of that location, near Stonehedge Restaurant, mid-day Thursday, according to Sgt. Pete Hughes of Hood River County Sheriff’s Department.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was notified, but will not actively investigate the sightings as they are not considered a dangerous situation, given that they are in the wildland-urban interface, where cougar sightings are not uncommon.
However, ODFW could respond if another sighting is reported like the one in the densely-populated Holly Drive, according to Hughes.
Cougar sightings can be reported by calling 911.
Hughes, along with Sheriff Matt English and Undersheriff Brian Rockett, responded along with deputies to the area of Westside School just before noon on Wednesday after a resident reported seeing the cat in an alleyway off Holly Drive. This is near the pedestrian access to the school grounds, at the end of Lois Drive.
Sheriff’s personnel went door-to-door to alert residents in the neighborhood, which is not in the city limits.
The school went into lock-in, meaning no one could come in or go out, and parents were notified by phone to come for their students at the end of the school day rather than have them go home on foot or bike. Class time was not interrupted.
Hughes said it is possible the cougar seen Wednesday is not the same one seen around Red Carpet or Stonehedge. The initial sighting was described as a juvenile cougar, and Hughes said the caller is “an experienced outdoorsman.” This time of year, it is not uncommon for a juvenile to be kicked out of its pack, meaning it needs to fend for itself.
Hughes said the animal near Stonehedge was apparently stalking a deer. He said two years ago, a cougar took down a deer under the deck of a home in the Fox Hollow development, a short distance south of Stonehedge.
If you encounter a cougar, authorities recommend:
- Keep calm and back away slowly, allowing the cougar an avenue of escape.
- Do not corner the cat or give it the sense it has no path to escape.
- Pick up children and small pets.
- Never run or turn your back.
- If a cougar shows aggression, fight back with anything you have at hand.