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Stunning Photos of Oregon Coast Cougar Incident - How's and Why's

Published 07/22/23 at 5:21 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Stunning Photos of Oregon Coast Cougar Incident - How's and Why's

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Sunday, July 17 was an unusual and wild one on the Oregon coast, and what appears to be a first for Cannon Beach. Just after sunrise, rather suddenly, a cougar was seen crawling around Haystack Rock. (Photo: a detail from a larger photo, Andy Woo

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Personnel from half a dozen different local, state and even federal agencies came out to cordon the area off, creating not just a stir in the media but an opportunity for some incredible photographs. However, you would've had to have been one of the lucky few.

Among those was regional photographer Andy Woo, whose photos are featured here.

The cougar incident also served to accentuate some wildlife science, and the fact another area just south of Cannon Beach was also being affected by cougar sightings.

What caused that cougar to leave the wilds and head for the beach?

Andy Woo

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said he or she was looking for snacks in the form of birds, they believe. Experts with the agency said they've never seen this before at the iconic Oregon coast landform, which is a national wildlife refuge for various kinds of birds, especially tufted puffin.

There are currently many puffin on top of the rock, where they've burrowed to lay eggs and rear their young.

ODFW District Wildlife Biologist Paul Atwood said cougars primarily feed on deer out in the wild, but they also munch on elk, other mammals and birds.

“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,” Atwood said.

He said the big cat likely came in on the low tide in the middle of the night.

Experts – including Cannon Beach Police Department – told Oregon Coast Beach Connection on Sunday they were thinking the cougar would leave on the next low tide in the middle of the night.

That's just what it did. After setting up a wildlife camera, they caught the mountain lion exiting the beach. The next morning, tracks were found in the sand as well.

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On Sunday, Cannon Beach police told Oregon Coast Beach Connection they had not seen the cat go anywhere else off the rock. However, photographer Andy Woo caught the money shot (or plural, rather): the cougar had done a little bit of ocean bathing after all.

Andy Woo

Another dramatic capture was of the mountain lion on infrared video (above), taken by the US Coast Guard aboard a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. That same aircraft also checked the other side of Haystack Rock and helped determine it was gone on Monday.

Meanwhile, Nehalem Bay State Park still has some areas closed because of at least three separate cougar sightings. Read full story Cougar Leaves Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock, This Part of Oregon Coast Back Open / Video


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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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