MT. HOOD, Ore. (KOIN) — A Gresham woman, who was last heard from on Aug. 29, was killed by a suspected cougar attack while hiking near Mt. Hood, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, which would mark the first fatal cougar attack in the state’s history.
“This does have every indication that this is the first fatal attack of a human by a cougar in Oregon,” said Brian Wolfer, ODFW watershed manager. “Every indication we have so far is that case.”
Diana Bober’s body was found near the Hunchback Trail on Monday, two days after search and rescue crews found her car located in a nearby parking lot. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday that Bober, an avid hiker, was the woman found on Monday.
An autopsy was performed Tuesday by the Oregon Medical Examiner and the fatal injuries were indicative of an animal attack, authorities said. DNA will be tested in Ashland to confirm it was a cougar — or cougars — that killed Bober, though that’s the result authorities expect.
“This is a terrible tragedy, and our sympathy goes out to Diana’s family and friends,” Wolfer said in a press release. “All of us at ODFW are thinking of you today.”
Wolfer said ODFW and other agencies are doing everything they can to locate the cougar.
“Because this is an unprecedented event, we don’t believe the threat to the public is greater today than it was yesterday,” he said. “However, we don’t know, and can’t quantify the threat this particular animal may pose to the public.”
The Hunchback trailhead is closed, and authorities advised that people avoid the Zig Zag area, as well. Schools in the area have been alerted about a possible cougar in the area. Oregon State Police has posted staff at the closed areas.
There were no reports of a cougar made in that area during the time that Bober was last heard from, according to Wolfer, but with a population of over 6,600 in the state’s forests, Wolfer said. Though uncommon, it’s not unheard of for people to encounter a cougar. The state averages over 400 complaints per year regarding cougars in the last several years.
Sgt. Collinson with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said the woman’s body was found off the Hunchback Trail and “ended up being 100 yards off of the trail and down a steep embankment” in “the steeper areas.” They ruled out foul play on Monday.
Bober, 55, last texted her mother on August 29. The next day her backpack was found and returned to lost-and-found at the ranger’s station hear Hunchback trailhead. Her family later reported to Gresham police that she was missing on Aug. 7. On Saturday, search crews found her car. She had been hiking alone.
According to Fish and Wildlife, evidence suggest the attack happened at least a couple days before Bober’s body was found. #KOIN6News pic.twitter.com/YskLYsYgXW— Velena Jones (@velenajones) September 11, 2018
Sunday night, her sister Alison Bober told KOIN 6 News, “You always imagine the worst and you just try not to … We are feeling hopeful, but we have to. We can’t do anything but continue to hold out hope.”
This is the second fatal cougar attack in the Pacific Northwest this year. In May, two people were attacked by a cougar in North Bend, Washington, about 30 miles east of Seattle. One person died. Authorities said that was the second fatal cougar attack in the last 100 years of the state’s history.
What to do if you encounter a cougar, according to the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife:
- Cougars often will 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.
- If in the very unusual event that a cougar attacks you, fight back with rocks, sticks, bear or pepper spray, tools or any items available.
For more information on cougars in the state, click here.