ODFW says all available evidence shows killed cougar is responsible for fatal attack

Image of the cougar detected on a trail camera on Sept. 14, a few ft from where the victim’s backpack picked up. This is the cougar ODFW believes killed Diana Bober. They killed this cougar on Sept. 14. Photo courtesy ODFW

Wildlife officials say DNA extraction was not possible in the cougar they killed near Zigzag, but all available evidence shows this was the same one responsible for the death of hiker Diana Bober.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife held a news conference Friday with their latest update.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the cougar that killed Bober was a safety risk to the public and they want to prevent any other tragedies. It is the state's first fatal cougar attack in the wild on record.

After they killed the cougar on Friday, Sept. 14, ODFW sent the carcass to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services forensics laboratory in Ashland for DNA analysis, hoping tests could confirm this was the animal that killed Bober.

Unfortunately, the test results were inconclusive. ODFW said, "There was a great deal of contamination," that prevented them from verifying the results. They said that several days passed between when the fatal attack likely occurred and when crews actually discovered Bober's body. Heavy rain fell during that time, contaminating DNA evidence at the scene.

“We could not get the DNA evidence we had hoped to obtain in this case,” Derek Broman, an ODFW carnivore coordinator, said. “However, all the evidence available shows we have the right cougar.”

Crews ended their search operations in the Zigzag area Friday after not finding any other cougars since they killed the one they believe is responsible for the hiker’s death. No other cougars appeared on their trail cameras.

ODFW says cougars are territorial. Males have home ranges of 50 to 150 square miles, whereas a female home range is usually 20 to 30 square miles.

Officials say this cougar is several years old and by this time in the wild cat's life, it would have already established a home range. They believe the cougar was in its home range when it attacked Bober.

The cougar weighed 64.5 pounds, which is a normal weight for a female adult cougar.

ODFW says the cougar was not emaciated and was not sick. They have no explanation as to why it would have attacked a human.

Bober, 55, was missing nearly two weeks. Her body was found Monday, Sept. 10 about 200 feet down a steep embankment and about 100 yards off Hunchback Trail. Other hikers had found her backpack on the trail days before and brought it to the Zigzag Ranger Station. Search teams spoke to the hikers to learn where they had found it. The information they gave them was the key clue that led searchers to Bober's body.

They killed the cougar on the Hunchback Trail. At about 9:20 a.m. last Friday, officials said a cougar walked in front of a remote camera they had set up just feet from where Bober's backpack had been found. Wildlife officials then deployed to hunt down the cougar. Once there, dogs picked up the cougar's scent and chased after the animal until it ran up a tree. The cougar was then shot with a rifle.

Alison Bober, Diana's older sister, says the family is relieved there's no longer a threat to the community.

"[Diana] was probably in a way a little sorry that this cougar was killed but really glad no other cougar was killed," said Bober.

Bober praised the efforts of ODFW for balancing public safety and preserving wildlife.

"[ODFW's] professionalism and graciousness and their warmth and expertise and the amount of hours they try to take care of this is just overwhelmingly impressive to me," she said. "I still would never want to see wildlife and wild places push so far away from us that we never got to experience them even if there is risk in that."

Forestry officials closed more than 29,000 acres of forestland and 14 trails during the search, citing public safety concerns.

The U.S. Forest Service plans to reopen the closed area as early as Monday, Sept. 24.

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