As the Wildlands Project continues to grow, encounters with carnivores are more common

By Melissa Bearns

The Bend Bulletin

REDMOND, CA - 4/26/02 Whatever you do, don't turn your back and run.

That's the advice of Tom Buckley if you ever encounter a carnivorous wild animal such as a bear, coyote, cougar or wolf.

Buckley, the Northwestern outreach coordinator for Defenders of Wildlife, teamed up with federal officials and representatives from nonprofit groups Thursday night in Redmond to help raise awareness on how to live in harmony with wild animals as human development continues to expand into or near their natural habitats.(See editor's note below.)

Before the presentation, Ashley Short, 10, petted the pelt of a wolf that was displayed on a table along with pelts from a cougar, a black bear and a gray wolf. She proudly showed Buckley a picture of a cougar cub, snapped by her neighbors while the cub was under their porch.

Ashley's closest encounter with a wild animal was when a bear got into her family's garage and chowed down on dog food. The dog eventually scared the bear away but it left behind a calling card, a big bear paw print on the door of their icebox.

According to Buckley, the number of sightings of bears, cougars and coyotes continues to rise and so does the concern of people who live on the outskirts of rural areas, close to the woods and wildlands that the animals call home.

Numerous cougars have been sighted in the last few months in Central Oregon and the controversial killing of a cougar near Lava Butte in January drew the ire of many community members.

"Our goal is to provide you with as much information as we can about these animals so that you'll know your options in the unlikely event that you do have a conflict," Buckley said at the beginning of the presentation.

The four speakers went through a short slideshow explaining the different breeding, social and physical characteristics of wolves, cougars, bears and coyotes, how to minimize chances of an encounter and what to do if you come face to face with one.

"Actually, you're about as likely to encounter a wolf as to win the lottery," Buckley joked. Only three have been sighted in Oregon in the last three years and as a general rule, they run from humans.

But audience members weren't completely reassured.

Barbara Piper lives between Bend and Sisters and is concerned by a cougar attack on her neighbor's dog a few weeks ago.

In response to her concerns, the speakers first tried to determine if it was a one-time attack or if the animal was just passing through.

If an animal is passing through in a rural area, using a back yard as the straightest path to its destination, there's not much to worry about.

But Buckley stressed that if the problem persists or the animal hangs around, it's time to call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and have them deal with the animal.

"If it's a chronic problem, that is a dangerous situation and needs to be dealt with aggressively," he said.

The key to remember is that the animals, no matter how big or scary looking, are usually as afraid of you as you are of them.

The U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA APHIS-Wildlife Service, Center for Wildlife, Counter Assault, Klamath/Siskiyou Wildlands Center and the Defenders of Wildlife sponsored the forum.

Editor's Note:  This article states that the carnivore encounters are a result of "human development" continuing to "expand into their [carnivore's] natural habitat.  The carnivores are growing in numbers because they are "protected".  The "human development" area is being decreated with more and more land bought up by various agencies - toward the goal of The Wildlands Project under the auspices of the U.N. Biodiversity Treaty -the goal of 50% of America being locked up in "wildlands."  More about The Wildlands Project, click here.

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