On Sunday evening, Tammy Reed stepped out of her house on Browns Creek Road and saw a full grown mountain lion just three feet away from her.
It was “just sitting there next to my garbage can, next to my water dishes for my cat. And it didn’t even flinch and it just stared at me and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I hallucinating?’”
She backed into the house, in the 4500 block of Browns Creek, slammed the door, and quickly looked through a nearby window, still unable to believe her eyes. But the cat still sat there unmoved.
She and her husband watched as it slowly ambled over toward a shed. “It just sat there on its haunches and just started surveying, looking around. No fear, no nothing.”
When her landlord’s dog came to the fence between the properties and stared at the cougar, Reed called her and told her to get her dog inside. But both dog and cougar just silently stared at each other.
The landlord, Jackie Taylor, got her dog inside and called the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office. Soon, two deputies were on scene, and then an Oregon State Police trooper.
Before they got there, the cougar ambled by the Reeds’ picture window, staring at the stunned occupants within, who were maybe two feet from it.
“We could see the sparkle in its eyes, its whiskers, its big feet, everything,” she said.
“It was such a beautiful creature, but it was just so scary that it wasn’t afraid of anything,” Reed said. “It was like a pet. No fear at all. Totally at home.”
She later learned the cougar had a lair in her backyard, close to where she gardens, and where her landlord’s grandchildren sometimes play.
When the first deputy arrived, she told him, “it’s napping in the back yard.”
At that point, she thought the cougar had gone down the embankment behind her house. “And one of them had the gun and he jumped back and said ‘holy crap!’ It was just three feet in front of them. And my husband said, ‘What, did they think we were kidding?’ The whole thing was just so surreal.”
Reed — an animal lover who Taylor calls an “animal magnet” because she always seems to be nursing some critter to health — asked if it could be tranquilized and relocated.
“They said not with this behavior,” Reed said. “There’s something radically wrong here because he’s not afraid of anything, he’s out prowling around in broad daylight. They’re nocturnal supposedly and they’re supposed to be super sketchy of humans and noise.”
Even with three law officers standing nearby, the cougar never took off. “It just sat right there and stared them down.” The officers “looked pretty fearful themselves,” Reed said. “One police officer said something about his partner was afraid it was going to charge him.”
According to police radio logs, the law officers consulted with a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who said the animal had to be put down.
The trooper killed the cougar about 8:30 p.m., Reed said. “They shot it and it rolled down an embankment.”
It was too steep to go down the embankment to retrieve the animal so they drove to the bottom of the cliff and walked up. “I’m surprised they hiked up that. I thought it was inaccessible,” Reed said.
It was dark by then, and they needed help finding where to look. A dispatcher called the Reeds and asked that they go outside with a flashlight to show the spot where the cougar was shot. Tammy Reed refused and made her husband go outside.
They found the cougar and hauled it down to the dry creekbed. Awhile later a game officer with the state police came and retrieved the cougar, which was sent in for an autopsy, Reed said.
Reed’s cat, Two Socks, had gone missing Thursday evening, the same night she heard an animal scream and figured it was maybe a raccoon. The law officers told her the cat was likely dead, but it returned Monday night, giving Reed, whose birthday was Tuesday, a wonderful early birthday present.
“I picked him up and started hugging him and then I started bawling.”
She also cried the night the cougar was killed. “It just hurt me that it had to get put down, but it was also that there was no choice. I’ve heard of people trying to relocate animals like that that have already had no fear of humans and they don’t get relocated they go right back to where they know the easy food source is.”
The law officers suspected the cougar was availing itself of the deer who went down to a watering hole near Reed’s house.
Reed said, “people need to be aware that because of the way these animals are getting accustomed to us, boy, you could walk out your door and find a giant raccoon, or in my case, a mountain lion, three feet from your door.”