SWEET HOME — Oregon Cougar Action Network founder Jayne Miller said her group will offer a Great Pyrenees/Maremma livestock guard dog puppy for adoption at a cougar information meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Jim Riggs Community Center, 880 18th Ave.
The meeting was called after numerous mid-valley cougar sightings in recent weeks. They were spotted in Sweet Home near Northside Park, prompting the Police Department to post warning signs. The Linn County Sheriff's Office received a report of a male cougar sighting near Lacomb on Tuesday morning.
Miller said her organization will work with a southern Oregon dog breeder who will sell the guard dog puppies for $400 to help ranchers with cougar predation issues without killing them.
“We only ask that the adoptive family love it, feed it, respect it and make sure it gets its shots,” Miller said.
The network hopes to place 20 of the livestock dogs with families in rural areas with the highest cougar populations and with hikers.
Miller was concerned that the public may be fueled by emotion due to the death of Diana Bober, a Gresham hiker believed to have been killed by a cougar in August. Miller doesn't believe that is how the woman died and says cougar issues are being politicized to create legislation that would allow hunters to use dogs to hunt cougars, which was banned several years ago in the state.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates the state’s cougar population is about 6,400, but Miller said that includes cougars in their first year of life. Miller said most states do not include young cougar kittens — those in their first year of life — in annual counts, because many do not survive.
“Most young mammals, including deer and cougars, do not survive their first year,” Miller said.
Miller said that only 1 in 10 cougar kittens survive to adulthood.
Miller believes the state’s cougar population is closer to 3,300, when first-year cats are excluded from the count.
Miller believes that a balanced cougar population also plays an important role in overall wildlife health by culling deer that may be infected with Lyme disease. That process may also benefit the public, since that would also reduce the number of ticks that could carry that disease from the infected deer to humans.
“Oregon can do better than this. We suggest Rep. Sherrie Sprenger not reintroduce bills for which to kill cougars with hounds,” Miller said. “Killing more cougars will only create more conflict and safety issues for Oregonians.”
A link to the Go Fund Me page to help fund the Pyrenees/Maremma livestock dog project can be found at https://bit.ly/2PTW9Di.