How many people does it take to respond to a mountain lion in a tree? It sounds like one of those old lightbulb jokes, but not in this case… Cougars retreat to trees for safety-hence the use of dogs by ‘sportsmen’ to drive a lion into a tree where they can calmly shoot it. Fair chase? Not according to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, but that’s another story. The lesson here is that a cougar in a tree is trying to get away. Cougars avoid people as much as they possibly can. At just two years old this young male was probably seeking his own territory and it was that journey that inadvertently took him into Bend. Not a comfortable spot for a cougar, and to be fair, not an appropriate one either. It seems the cougar realized this when he sought refuge in the tree. As far as we know this was the only sighting and not a very pleasant experience for the lion at all- unpleasant enough that had ODFW taken him out to public land and released him, the story would have been over. ODFW, despite the notorious difficulties associated with counting mountain lions, claim that there are over 6000 in the state of Oregon. If this is accurate(which is doubtful) then their very own data shows how little trouble is being caused by all these lions. Pets, livestock and our families, depend on adult humans to make wise decisions regarding safety. No form of conflict prevention can be guaranteed 100%, but much like seat belts in your vehicle, using preventative measures gives you the best odds. If cougars do wander into towns and it is an unpleasant experience with no food reward, they have absolutely no reason to stay. Ordering 11 law enforcement officers to stand beneath the tree incites panic among people, it feeds mythical fears, it is a reaction not a response, it is not based on any form of science about wildlife behavior.
ODFW has a rule that says “We just don’t relocate cougars (found) in town,” she said. “If you see them, there something is wrong.” (Michelle Dennehy, ODFW spokesperson).
This statement is pretty much fanciful and cannot be supported by any peer reviewed published science and as Dr Rick Hopkins concluded
” it was “incomprehensible” that someone would decide the cougar should be killed.
“I get it if you get an animal that really is a risk to humans,” Hopkins said, “but that animal was not a risk to humans.”