For the third time in three months, a cougar was struck and killed by a vehicle in rural Union County.

The accident occurred shortly before 8:30 a.m. Monday when a Honda CR-V driven by Debra Lynn Keefer, 58, of Joseph, struck the cougar on Highway 82 three miles south of Elgin, according to the Oregon State Police.

Keefer, who had no passengers, was not injured in the crash, but the vehicle she was driving was seriously damaged and had to be towed from the scene, police said.

The cougar was taken to the La Grande Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife office where it was examined. The male cat weighed 122 pounds and was between 2 to 3 years old,
ODFW biologist Leonard Erickson said.

The cougar was killed on a 3.4-mile stretch of Highway 82 between Courtney Lane and Indian Creek Road, known locally as Hamburger Hill because of the number of animals hit while crossing the roadway. Erickson said wildlife cross there because there is plenty of vegetation on both sides of the highway, which provides cover for the animals.

“It is a natural area (for wildlife) to want to cross. They can slip through unknown,” he said.

Prior to Monday’s fatality, two other cougars were killed in August. The first was killed Aug. 6 in Ladd Canyon, and the second was struck Aug. 20 on Highway 82 in the same area as Monday’s incident. Both cougars weighed about 50 pounds and were close to 1 year old. Between three and four cougars, Erickson said, are usually hit and killed by vehicles each year in Union County.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer