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Deputy shoots cougar in self-defense

Published here, February 15, 2001

By Tom Peterson
The Bulletin

Deschutes County Sheriff's deputy Rhett Hemphill, left, and Michael Takagi pose next to the cougar that Hemphill shot in self defense on Tuesday.

OREGON -- A small cave in southeast Bend that served as a play area for several children, proved to be a hideout for a 75-pound cougar Tuesday afternoon.

But not for long.

Off-duty Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputy Rhett Hemphill shot the animal in self defense with a handgun, said the owner of an equestrian center and a state wildlife official.

Sharon Takagi, owner of the Rakkan Equestrian Center at 60920 Larsen Road near the Knott Landfill, said her children, Tyler, 6, and Haily, 9, played in the cave where the cougar was shot near her property.

“That is their hangout,” she said. “They love those little caves. They’re just perfect for them to get in. I was shocked to find out a cougar was in there.”

Deputy Hemphill, who could not be reached for comment, had come to the equestrian center with his wife, who was set to take a riding lesson from Takagi, 40.

Before the cougar shooting, Takagi said her horses were spooked and anxiously milling about at the south end of her property.

Takagi thought a man dredging the canal with heavy machinery nearby could be the cause for the horses’ behavior, she said. So her husband, Michael, 38, asked the dredger to move farther down the canal while she gave lessons. The equipment operator then told Michael Takagi that he had seen a cougar move toward their driveway.

At the Takagis’ request, Hemphill took his handgun and went to scout the area.

“He was gone about one minute, and then we heard a boom,” Sharon Takagi said.

Hemphill had ventured into a rocky area next to the Takagis’ driveway to look for the cougar. Sharon Takagi said he passed by a waist-high cave once and then went back by it when he made eye contact with the cougar in the cave.

Trapped, the cougar growled and moved into a crouching position as if it were preparing to spring forward, said Corey Heath, wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend.

Hemphill then shot the cougar in the head in self defense, Heath said.

“Oregon State Police has done an investigation into it, and he is not being charged,” Heath said. “OSP found the shooting was a human safety situation.”

Hemphill, a hunter, did not have a tag for the cougar and was unable to keep it.

Heath said ODFW took the cougar and plans on using the pelt for educational purposes.

He estimated the cougar to be about 2 years old.

Based on that estimate, he said the cougar had recently left its mother and was likely staking out its territory.

Heath said deer often travel through the area near the equestrian center which could have drawn the cougar. He also said livestock such as horses and sheep, while not a native prey, can also be a draw.

Sightings of cougars in Bend, Sisters, Redmond and La Pine are fairly common.

“We have cougars or mountain lions everywhere, and we get three to four calls a month reporting sightings,” Steve George ODFW Biologist recently said.

The estimated number of cougars statewide is between 5,000 and 5,500, Heath said.

Takagi said her family does not hunt, but they have decided to buy a cougar tag and hunting license.

“We want to be able to shoot one if it is on our land or next to our driveway where my children play,” she said.

NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed, without profit, for research or educational purposes. We do our best, as well, to give credit to the original news source who published these Guns Save Lives stories out of respect and appreciation for their willingness to spread the word that Guns Save Lives. God Bless the Americans that publish these stories - for assisting Americans in hearing the truth.


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