Nonprofit Says Cougar Fear Unfounded

EUGENE, Ore. — Recent cougar sightings put Springfield residents on edge, but a local nonprofit that works to protect native predators says a lot of this fear is unfounded.

Predator Defense has been working out of Eugene since the early 1990s. Its mission is to create alternatives for people to coexist with wildlife such as these cougars.

Its executive director Brooks Fahy says that peaceful coexistence is possible if people look at the facts and don’t feed into the fear. Fahy has been working to protect native predators, like cougars, in Oregon for the last 37 years.

“I get concerned when the media starts to report sightings because published peer reviewed research has demonstrated that 85 to 95 percent of all sightings aren’t cougars,” Fahy said.

He says they often are house cats, dogs and deer. And though people worry about attacks, they’re very, very rare. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirms no one ever died from a cougar attack in Oregon.

“In all of North America in the last 120 years, there have only been 21 fatalities, so we’ve got to put this all into perspective,” Fahy said.

“There is a fear that the public has with big wildlife animals, whether that’s bears or cougars. There’s a certain amount of excitement and fear when people hear of a sighting or livestock depredation or whatever that might be,” said ODFW biologist Brian Wolfer.

Fahy says that fear could be more dangerous than the cougars, referencing coverage of a case a couple years ago on Spencer’s butte.

“They started interviewing people that were going up the butte and some of the individuals said, ‘Well, I’m carrying a loaded gun,’ and I think there’s more of likelihood of somebody shooting somebody or somebody’s dog or cat,” Fahy said.

Fahy says cougars are very solitary animals and that humans really aren’t on their radar at all. Often when they are found in urban areas, they are trying to get back to the wild.

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  1. Thumper says:

    Only 21 deaths… that’s a number Fahy can live with. Unfortunately most were children. Not his, apparently.
    He sounds like Tim Treadwell. Maybe he wants to pet the kitties.

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