Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

A federal trapper has set several snares to try to capture other cougars near Bebe Racey's home

By Jayson Jacoby


Oregon wildlife officials on Sunday trapped and killed an adult female cougar near Bebe Racey's home in southern Baker County, and a federal trapper is still trying to catch as many as three other cougars roaming the area.

One cougar has walked onto Racey's front porch, said Brian Ratliff, district wildlife biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's (ODFW) Baker City office.

Racey also told officials she is missing about 10 of her outdoor barn cats, Ratliff said.

Her home is just west of the intersection of Highway 245 and the Burnt River Canyon Road, between Bridgeport and Hereford about 19 air miles south of Baker City.

Ratliff said Racey's daughter, Suzan Ellis Jones, first reported cougar activity near Racey's home on Feb. 13.

Late last week ODFW officials set up a live trap, baited with meat from a road-killed deer, near Racey's home.

The trap failed to nab the cougar.

Curt Mattson, who works for the federal Wildlife Services, which specializes in trapping wildlife, reconfigured the trap Saturday, and on Sunday morning a female cougar,which Ratliff said weighed 80 pounds, was caught in the live trap.

Officials euthanized the cougar, Ratliff said.

Had the trap captured a kitten, the agency would have tried to rescue the animal, he said.

The animal was in good physical condition except for what appeared to be widespread mange, he said.

The live trap is no longer set up, but Mattsonhas set out several snares designed to capture and kill cougars.

"That is their job, and they're 10 times the trappers I am," Ratliff said.

Ratliff said Mattson, while looking around Racey's property, found tails from several domestic cats, which leaves little doubt that the cougars are "feeding on (Racey's) outside cats," Ratliff said.

The situation at Racey's home - a cougar boldly approaching a home - creates an obvious public safety hazard, Ratliff said.

"The removal of these cats needs to continue," he said.

Ratliff said Baker County pays 10 percent of the salary for Mattson, who is based in La Grande.

In exchange the federal agent is supposed to devote about 10 percent of his time to dealing with wildlife problems in Baker County, which can range from the dangerous, as in the case of cougars, to the unpleasant - skunks, for instance.

"It's a godsend to have (Mattson) here, even at 10 percent of the time," Ratliff said. "I'm comfortable letting Wildlife Services try to deal with this problem."