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Wildlife team tracking cougar that killed Oregon woman in state's first fatal attack

Wild cougar - Photo by Brian Wolfer of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

ZIGZAG, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is working to track down a wild cougar that likely killed a woman who was hiking near Mount Hood last week.

Diana Bober was found deceased on Monday along the Hunchback Trail, near the Zigzag Ranger Station. Officials said it appeared she was killed by a cougar, which would be the first fatal attack in the wild on record in Oregon.

On Monday, ODFW officials said they recovered cougar DNA at the scene and sent it to a lab in Ashland for testing. Wednesday, wildlife officials began planning as they search for the cougar. Thursday, they plan to use dogs and mules to begin tracking the animal in question.

"Locate the cougar, kill the cougar, then take the DNA samples," said Brian Wolfer, ODFW Watershed Manager. "We really don't have a way that we could capture and hold a cougar and wait for [DNA] test results to come back, and especially in that terrain, that's not an option for us."

They believe the same cougar that may have attacked Bober would still be in the area, as the animals are very territorial.

"In a way, instead of having an accidental death that feels like, 'Oh we might have been able to do something," this is like, 'My sister died fighting a cougar.' I'm not sure there is anything we could have done. In a way, there is a less chance of friends or family feeling guilty," said Alison Bober, Diana's sister.

Officials say it may be difficult to find the cougar, especially considering some cougars have territories that span 100 square miles. They say the terrain is very steep and hard to get to. Wolfer says it took hours for their crews to reach the scene on foot Wednesday.

Hunchback Trail is closed while officials search for the cougar. The U.S. Forest Service may close additional trails too.

Oregon is home to more than 6,000 cougars, and while sightings and encounters are very rare, you should know what to do if you encounter one.

According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, you should:

  • Be sure to stay calm and stand your ground.
  • Maintain direct eye contact and back away slowly.
  • Do not run - that triggers a cougar's instinct to chase.
  • If the cougar seems aggressive - raise your arms to make yourself appear larger.
  • If you're attacked - fight back with anything you grab on to - don't play dead.
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