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Early Bounty Hunters Decimate Oregon Cougars

Numerous accounts of cougar encounters sprinkled the pages of early Oregon newspapers.

Also called mountain lions and sometimes panthers, the big cats were blamed for stalking children, harassing miners, killing livestock and pets, decimating deer populations, and scaring women out for a walk.  A bounty spurred intense hunting and generated tales of bravery, as well as buffoonery.

In June 1919, George Woodridge and Pete Ainsworth of Grants Pass reported they spotted cougar tracks near Peavine Ridge. They told the Rogue River Courier that Woodridge's two dogs found and treed the cougar before the hunters arrived.  Woodridge had a .38 caliber six-shooter and Ainsworth armed himself with a fist full of rocks. The six-shooter and rocks only irritated the cougar, which flew out of the tree and attacked its tormentors.  The dogs put up a fight and Ainsworth pelted the big cat with more rocks until Woodridge reloaded and fired a killing shot. 

The men escaped injury and the dogs survived, but Ainsworth said next time he’d want a bigger gun. 

By 1961 it was estimated 200 cougars were left in Oregon.  Conservation measures since then have increased the population to more than 5,000.


Sources: "Grants Pass Men Have Exciting Cougar Fight." Rogue River Courier 23 June 1919 [Grants Pass Oregon] : 1. Web. 9 Feb. 2016. http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088181/1919-06-23/ed-1/seq1/#date1=1846&index=0&date2=2015&words=cougar+Cougar+cougars&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&lccn=sn96088181&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=cougar&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1; "Cougars." Oregon Wild. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.

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Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.