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Cougar Leaves Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock, This Part of Oregon Coast Back Open / Video

Published 07/17/23 at 5:51 p.m. - Updated 07/17/23 at 8:31 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Cougar Leaves Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock, This Part of Oregon Coast Back Open

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – For the entire day Sunday, most of Cannon Beach's sands were shut down due to a rather extraordinary reason: a cougar was lounging on Haystack Rock. The famed Oregon coast icon was the center of a beach closure that had never happened before, causing a wide range of federal, local and state agencies to gather near the rock and ensure the protection of not just people but the adult cougar as well. (Photo Khula Makhalira.) See the original incident: Cougar 'Standoff' on N. Oregon Coast: Officials Wait for Cat to Leave Haystack Rock / Cannon Beach

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According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the coast was clear this morning – so to speak – and a camera set there by wildlife officials showed the cat leaving in the middle of the night.

Cannon Beach was reopened to the public by 10 a.m.

Cannon Beach Police Department expressed their relief.

“Early this morning, Oregon State Police and the Department of Fish and Wildlife observed tracks that appeared to be from the cougar leading away from Haystack Rock,” they said on social. “The Coast Guard just flew the area and did not see any signs that the Cougar was still on the rock. Please remain vigilant of your surroundings, Cougars and Bears appear to be getting more comfortable in town.”

However, there is still a cougar issue some 16 miles south on the Oregon coast, where Nehalem Bay State Park had to shut down part of its trail system because of multiple cougar sightings. BELOW, SEE COAST GUARD INFRARED VIDEO OF THE COUGAR

On Sunday, Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) told Oregon Coast Beach Connection this is a new one for the rock.

“This is the first confirmed sighting of a cougar at Haystack Rock,” they said.

ODFW also acknowledged this, saying they believed the cougar came out at low tide late Saturday night to try and hunt birds – which the Oregon coast icon has plenty of.

“While the forested areas along the coast are prime habitat for cougars, it is unusual that a cougar made its way on to Haystack Rock,” said ODFW District Wildlife Biologist Paul Atwood. “Their primary food source is deer, but they will also consume elk, other mammals and birds.”

Others attending to the situation were Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), Cannon Beach Fire Department, Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) volunteer.

A US Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew also cruised around the rock using an infrared (FLIR) system to ensure the cat was gone. It operated at an appropriate distance so that it did not disturb wildlife on top of the rock, which is a wildlife refuge.

It was HRAP that first learned of the cougar at 6:30 a.m., then alerting authorities, the group told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Cannon Beach Police spokesman Bruce St. Dennis told Oregon Coast Beach Connection on Sunday that attempting to tranquilize the cougar or trying to capture him wasn't really an option. Both situations put responders at great risk, as well as the cat.

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“And that's just not a good ending for anyone,” St. Dennis said.

At Nehalem Bay State Park, the situation there is ongoing. Visitors also spotted more cougars after the original set of incidents, and now ODFW and OPRD are working together on what happens next.

It is not the same cougar, officials said.

How to protect yourself if you encounter a cougar on the Oregon coast?

“Cougar populations have been growing in the Coast Range as cougars migrate from denser population strongholds in other areas of the state and seek out new habitat,” ODFW said. “Their primary prey are black-tailed deer, and recent research with fecal DNA shows higher densities than previously thought. But cougars will pursue smaller prey like rabbits, small rodents - or in this case, birds.”


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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