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The cougar hunt is on

Government houndsmen from around Oregon are descending upon the Mount Hood National Forest to hunt down and kill the cougar responsible for the first fatal cougar attack in state history.

At least three federal Wildlife Services agents with tracking dogs will go into the remote Hunchback Mountain area to capture and kill any cougar they find to see whether it matches animal DNA taken from the body of 55-year-old Gresham hiker Diana Bober, whose body was found Monday.

“When we locate them, our intention will be to kill them and then take samples and then try to match that up,” said Brian Wolfer, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s South Willamette watershed manager.

“We will not know for sure we have the correct cougar until we’re able to get those samples,” said Wolfer, who added that “we are not looking to indiscriminately kill a large number of cougars.”

It takes at least two hours to hike into the scene where Bober’s body was found. The trail is as skinny as 2-feet-wide in places and includes steep drop-offs, Wolfer said. The trail is also rife with blown-down trees that make using mules to haul in a trap or cage impossible, he said.

“We really don’t have a way that we could capture and hold a cougar and wait for test results to come back, especially in that terrain. That’s just not an option for us.”

Plans are to begin immediately around where Bober’s body was found, then fan out from there, Wolfer said. Since cougars have large territories that can overlap, there may be more than one cougar in the area, he said.

“We’re going to do the best we can to make sure we get the correct cougar,” Wolfer said.

Typically, the hounds are used to tree the targeted cougar, which is then shot. Wolfer said the

killing will be as humane as possible.

The sampled DNA from the cougar killed by Wildlife Service agents will be sent to the Oregon State University’s pathology lab for processing. It then will be compared to DNA from the attack that’s being analyzed by the U.S. Fish and wildlife Service’s National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.

An autopsy conducted Tuesday concluded that Bober, an active backwoods trekker, died as the result of an animal attack and an analysis of her wounds concluded it was Oregon’s first documented fatal cougar attack.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTwriterFreeman.


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