Cougar near school: 'Predatory cats can be attracted to the sounds of children at play'

Springfield Public Schools dispatched additional staff and modified outdoor activities Wednesday at schools near where a motorist spotted a cougar early Wednesday morning. (SBG)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Springfield Public Schools dispatched additional staff and modified outdoor activities Wednesday at schools near where a motorist spotted a cougar early Wednesday morning.

The big cat crossed 42nd Street near Mount Vernon Elementary, not far from where a homeowner found a cougar in the bed of his pickup truck Tuesday night, Springfield Police said.

A cougar was also spotted Tuesday afternoon near Oak Hill School off 30th Avenue in Eugene.

Police said the witness Wednesday morning "is a bow-hunter and familiar with large cats."

"Predatory cats can be attracted to the sounds of children at play," Springfield Police said, "and police are issuing a warning for parents and play area supervisors to be vigilant to the presence of cougar(s) in the area."

School officials sent information home to help parents help their children understand the situation.

"We will be sending home letters to the families, although we are really impressed by the way that Springfield Police has made sure that everyone is aware," said Jenna McCulley with the school district. "So we're hopeful that that will encourage families to be diligent and be thoughtful and keep their eyes open."

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has also been notified.

"We are working with the school to get a good understanding of where this cat is coming from," said Joe Stack with ODFW, "so we can try and locate it."

Cougars have been back in the news in the wake of the first-known fatal cougar attack on a human in the wild this summer near Mount Hood.

The death of 55-year-old Diana Bober of Gresham has renewed debate over Oregon's ban on hunting cougars with hounds. Voters passed the ban in 1994.

An effort to repeal the ban 2 years later failed at the ballot box.

Back in July, Springfield Police shot and killed a cougar in a tree outside a home at 30th and Olympic streets. That cat was initially spotted atop a fence stalking children playing in a pool in a backyard.

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