"We have not yet been able to confirm that a cougar is in the area."
Herman Biederbeck, ODFW wildlife biologist
WARRENTON - People in Warrenton are being urged to watch out for a cougar.
Warrenton Police and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) have received reports from citizens of sightings of a cougar near the 300 block of First Street.
"We have had three to four sightings that have been close to downtown," said Warrenton Police Chief Mathew Workman. "It is very unusual for a cougar to come that close to people."
"We have had reports in the past of cougar sightings in the Ft. Stevens area," said Andrew Merila, an Oregon State Police sergeant in Astoria. "But it is rare to have sightings in a town."
"Often times they will come out of the wilderness into a populated area to seek food," said Tom Bergin, Clatsop County Sheriff. "One of our staff actually spotted a cougar in her backyard last year."
Herman Biederbeck, ODFW wildlife biologist in Tillamook, said his department has not received reports of any human being attacked by a cougar in this latest case, but some residents have reported missing pets.
"It is extremely rare for a cougar to attack a human," Biederbeck said. "But missing pets does indicate that a cougar could be present. We have not yet been able to confirm that a cougar is in the area."
ODFW believes the cougar population along the North Coast is small compared to the rest of Oregon.
"We have had reports that there may be one or two cougars in the Warrenton area," Biederbeck said. "It could be a female with a cub that could be about a year old. It would be bigger than a house cat."
ODFW urges parents to be with their children if they are outside and to keep pets inside at night and during the day to keep them protected. According to Workman, cougars hunt small animals or even elk, but a child could be potential prey.
"We dont want people to be overly concerned that there is going to be an attack," Workman said. "We want them to be vigilant. We dont want them to pack a weapon in the city limits. It would be very scary if people are firing off weapons within the city limits and bullets are flying everywhere, he said.
It is illegal to fire a weapon within the city limits under Oregon law.
But if a family member or pet is being attacked by a cougar, you can protect yourself, Workman said.
Mark Jeffery, Warrenton School District superintendent, said school administrators are working with police and the OFWD to determine what type of notification should be used for students and parents.
"It is a matter of making sure the kids are aware," Jeffery said. "It is also all about making people more aware and not to create panic, but to be vigilant about where our kids are."
Officials urge area residents to beware of their surroundings, don't leave pet food out in open containers, and if you spot a cougar to stay clear and call authorities.
The ODFW will send a wildlife biologist to Warrenton to investigate the sightings and determine a course of action.
According to the ODFW, cougars will often retreat if given the opportunity. Leave the animal a way to escape.
Stay calm and stand your ground.
Maintain direct eye contact.
Pick up children, but do so without bending down or turning your back on the cougar.
Back away slowly.
Do not run. Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack.
Raise your voice and speak firmly.
If the cougar seems aggressive, raise your arms to make yourself look larger and clap your hands.
In the event of a cougar attack, use whatever you can like sticks, rocks or tools to fight back aggressively.
If you spot a cougar, call your local police or sheriff's department or the ODFW at (503) 842-2741.