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Oregon is home to more than 5,000 cougars, or mountain lions. While cougar sightings and encounters are rare, it is wise to educate yourself about the big cats.
Native to Oregon, cougars range throughout the state, the highest densities occur in the Blue Mountains in the northeastern part of the state and in the southwestern Cascade Mountains . Their primarily food source is deer, but they will also consume elk, raccoons, bighorn sheep, and other mammals and birds. Cougars are territorial animals and maintain home ranges of up to 100 miles. Most active at dawn and dusk, cougars are lone hunters. They are generally solitary animals, except for mothers who remain with kittens for about two years. While actual cougar sightings have increased, coyotes, bobcats and dogs are often mistaken for cougars. A cougar can be identified by its large size, cat-like appearance, consistent tan or tawny body color, and long tail. An adult cougar's tail is nearly three feet long and a third to a half of its total length. Cougar tracks can be differentiated from dog tracks by paying attention to detail.
Report any cougar sighting or encounter to a local ODFW office or Oregon State Police office.
- Tracks do not generally include claw marks because cougars have retractable claws.
- The heel pad has three distinct lobes at the base of the heel pad, forming an "M" shape.
- Tracks will usually include claw marks.
- Tracks of dogs' rear pads are more rounded.
If you live in cougar country
- Learn your neighborhood. Be aware of any wildlife corridors or places where deer or elk concentrate.
- Walk pets during the day and keep them on a leash.
- Keep pets indoors at dawn and dusk. Shelter them for the night.
- Feed pets indoors.
- Don't leave food and garbage outside.
- Use animal-proof garbage cans if necessary.
- Remove heavy brush from near the house and play areas.
- Install motion-activated light outdoors along walkways and driveways.
- Be more cautious at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.
- Do not feed any wildlife. By attracting other wildlife, you may attract a cougar.
- Keep areas around bird feeders clean.
- Deer-proof your garden and yard with nets, lights, fencing.
- Fence and shelter livestock. Move them to sheds or barns at night.
If You Recreate in Cougar Country
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Leave your dog at home or keep it on a leash. Pets running free may lead a cougar back to you.
- Hike in groups. Make noise to alert wildlife of your presence.
- Keep children close to you. Teach them about wildlife.
- Keep campsites clean. Sleep 100 yards from cooking areas.
- Store food in animal-proof containers.
- Carry deterrent spray.
- Be cautious at dusk and dawn.
- Never feed any wildlife. Prey attracts predators.
- Do not approach any wildlife; stay at least 100 yards away.
- Steer clear of baby wildlife. Mother is likely nearby.
- Be alert when sitting quietly or stopping to rest.
- Be especially alert at dawn and dusk when cougars are most active.
- Be aware that animal calls and animal kills can attract a cougar.
If You Encounter a Cougar
- 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.
- Back away slowly.
- Do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.
- Raise your voice and speak firmly.
- If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands.
- If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, tools or any items available.
Cougars are hunted in Oregon on a quota basis.
Controlled Hunts Information