Western Oregon town troubled by growing cougar population

SWEET HOME, Ore. -- An uptick in cougar sightings has people in the Sweet Home area concerned for their safety and their livestock.

KPTV reports many voiced concerns at a packed town hall meeting Thursday night and asked questions about what they can do to protect their livelihoods.

Some told stories of sightings and killings of their livestock.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are 6,600 cougars in Oregon right now. They say that number is steadily growing.

The cougars, according to ODFW officials, are territorial and, once mature, must find their own place to live.

They say that is why many cities in Oregon are seeing an increase in cougar sightings. ODFW says currently, there are no effective tools to remove that growing population.

Back in the 1960s, cougars in Oregon numbered around 200 and dogs were used to control the population. In the mid-90s, Measure 18 put an end to that practice.

FOX 12 Thursday night spoke with town hall attendee Jim Gourley.

Gourley’s family owns land about eight miles from Sweet Home. He says a cougar killed four sheep and four goats on the land this summer and struck again last week.

“Last week, it took one more and it was my granddaughter’s 4-H goat,” Gourley said.

Gourley says to his memory, the town has never had as many sightings as it has had in the past few years.

People are allowed to hunt cougars during general season year-round but, according to ODFW, there are caps as to how many cougars can be hunted across the state.