- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Wildlife advocates have criticized Bend police for shooting a cougar, saying it could have been tranquilized and relocated, or left to leave on its own.

It’s the second time in about two months a cougar was killed in the city, The Bulletin newspaper reported.

A hiker at Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint reported the animal Saturday a few yards off a trail.

At the time, police said, there were about 40 visitors in the 100-acre park, an old cinder cone volcano where trails lead to a pinnacle 500 feet up, offering panoramic views of the Central Oregon high desert.

Less than an hour later, after a dispatcher found no state fish and wildlife trooper available, police shot and killed the cougar. It was a 120-pound male 2 to 3 years old.

“Chances are if it would have been left alone, it wouldn’t have been there in the morning,” George Wuerthner, a Bend biologist and spokesman for Predator Defense told KTVZ-TV.

The state does not have a case on record of a wild cougar attacking a person, said Brooks Fahy, executive director of the group.

Oregon Wild spokesman Erik Fernandez said the animal should have been darted and relocated.

Police Lt. Clint Burleigh said the department’s tranquilizer darts are for use on dogs and would take 15 minutes to affect a cougar.

“If it takes that long to tranquilize the cougar, then it can create a more dangerous situation in an uncontained area,” he said.

The state Parks Department defers to other agencies in dealing with cougar or bear sightings, said spokesman Chris Havel.

“Sometimes that means trapping and sometimes, unfortunately, it means killing if we have a territorial problem,” he said.

The last time a cougar report was confirmed at the park, in 2004, the trails were not so popular and the surrounding neighborhoods were not so densely populated, said Susan Bethers, park manager.

She said she had just begun working at Pilot Butte and saw the cougar herself, along with the former park manager.

The former manager decided to leave the cougar alone and close down all of the trails on the butte, she said, and by the next day the cougar was gone.

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