Oregon wildlife officials to hunt for killer cougar

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon wildlife officials with guns and dogs will hunt for a cougar believed to have killed a woman while she was hiking in rugged terrain near the state’s highest peak, a wildlife official said Wednesday.

Diana Bober, who at 55 was an avid and experienced hiker, apparently fought the cougar with repellant, a sharp object and a stick, her sister said.

Bober’s body was found Monday, almost two weeks after she was last heard from. She was the first person known to have been killed by a cougar in the wild in Oregon, and the second in the Pacific Northwest this year.

If a cougar is tracked down, wildlife officials will kill it and then check for a DNA match with DNA left on Bober, Brian Wolfer of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife told a news conference Wednesday.

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Wolfer acknowledged that other cougars might be killed in the search for the one that attacked Bober, but said capturing a mountain lion in the steep terrain for DNA testing isn’t an option.

“It’s a knife ridge, very steep country with sheer drops and a cliff,” Wolfer said. “It’s a large effort just to get stuff in there.”

It’s a two-hour hike from the trailhead near Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest peak at 11,250 feet (3,429 meters), to the site where Bober’s body was found along the Hunchback Trail, Wolfer said. The trail is described by OregonHikers .org as “wild and rugged” with frequent signs of cougars and coyotes.

“We’re not looking to indiscriminately kill a large number of cougars,” Wolfer said. The number of cougars in Oregon has grown since the 1960s from 200 to around 6,600, he said.

Bober’s sister Alison, who is from Arlington, Virginia, and is visiting Portland, said Diana loved the outdoors, and that’s how she should be remembered.

“It allowed her to see the beauty in life,” Alison Bober said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The fact that other cougars might be killed “would grieve my sister,” Bober said. But Bober, who is a year older than Diana, said she is very impressed with the expertise of law enforcement, search and rescue members and wildlife officials, and that she has agrees with whatever approach is decided by wildlife officials.

Diana stood at only 5 feet, 4 inches (1.52-meters), Bober said.

“She was petite, but she was strong,” Bober said.

Evidence including defensive wounds showed that the hiker, who lived in the Portland suburb of Gresham, tried to fight off the attack with a sharp object, a stick and repellant spray, her sister said.

In May, a mountain biker in Washington state was killed by a cougar on a trail east of Seattle, the first fatal attack in that state in 94 years.

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Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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