Gaylene Royal’s two dogs, Emma and Dottie, alerted Royal to a cougar’s presence under their family trailer outside her home in southeast La Grande Monday. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Two new heroes and a one-of-a-kind hair-raising story to tell.
Gaylene Royal has all three following a shocking experience at her home on 2508 E. M Ave. Monday morning.
Royal was alarmed when her family’s two dogs, Emma, a lab, and Dottie, a lab-chow mix, began barking furiously outside her home’s garage. Royal went to her garage window to see what all the commotion was about.
“I thought I might see a raccoon. I had no idea,” she said.
What Royal saw was something she will definitely never forget — a cougar under her family’s travel trailer.
“It was a little scary,” Royal said.
A startled Royal immediately called the police to report the cougar. A team of officers from the La Grande Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Office arrived minutes later and killed the big cat.
“The police and the sheriff’s department did an awesome job. They were right here,” said Royal, whose husband, Gordon, was not home.
Royal said that if not for Emma and Dottie she likely would have walked outside past the travel trailer while the cougar was under it. She shudders to think what may have happened.
“I’m very grateful,” Royal said. “(The dogs) are my heroes.”
Emma paid a price for harassing the cougar, receiving scratches on a front leg and her nose and head.
“I’m thankful she was not hurt worse,” Royal said.
The cougar was an 83-pound male that was less than 2 years old, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Jim Cadwell. The first confirmed sighting of the cougar was made Monday morning in east La Grande. The La Grande Police Department then alerted the La Grande Adventist School, 2702 Adams Ave., of the cougar. The big cat was in the vicinity of the school but appeared to be moving east and out of town.
Later, the cougar was reported back in La Grande on East L Avenue. But a confirmed sighting was not made until 8:30 a.m. when law enforcement officers arrived at the Royals’ home, said La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey.
East M Avenue is less than a half mile southeast of Willow Elementary School, a kindergarten-only school. Willow Elementary was not notified of the cougar because a confirmed sighting of it — when relatively near the school — was not made until officers were right on top of it, Harvey said.
The cougar was killed at about 8:30 a.m., 30 minutes before kindergarten classes started at Willow.
Cadwell said the fact the cougar was deep into town indicated that it was used to being around people. Therefore, no consideration to tranquilizing the cougar was thus made.
“We did not want to perpetuate what was a public safety situation,” Cadwell said.
The biologist said if the cougar were tranquilized and moved, it might later come back to another area where people live.
“We may have ended up with the same problem in another area,” Cadwell said.
The biologist said that most likely the cougar was in an area where it could not stay because it was already occupied by a dominant male. The cougar may have come into La Grande in search of small animals to eat.
“Pets are what they appear to be after when they come into town,” Cadwell said.
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